Ready for Action

 

Week of March 13, 2011

 

Bible Verses:1 Peter 1:13-2:1.

 

Lesson Focus:In this lesson Peter spelled out the impact our future hope should have on our conduct, even when we are going through difficult times.

 

Be Holy!: 1 Peter 1:13-16.

 

[13]Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [14]As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, [15]but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, [16]since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."[ESV]

 

The word therefore reaches back to all of verses 1-12. In the following verses the readers are exhorted to live a godly life. But all these exhortations are grounded in Godís saving work as explained in verses 1-12. Believers are to obey because they are Godís chosen pilgrims, because they have been begotten by the Father, because they have an untouchable inheritance, and because of the greatness of their salvation. Godís commands are always rooted in His grace. Another way of putting this is to say that the indicative (what God had done for us in Christ) is always the basis of the imperative (how we should live our lives). To confuse the order here would be disastrous, and the result would be works righteousness instead of seeing holiness as the result of Godís grace and power, as a response to the love of God in Christ. The one imperative of verse 13 is the command to set your hope fully on the grace. Hope in 1 Peter is virtually equivalent to faith in Paul and it reminds readers that one trusts God for the future. The rest of the verb forms in verse 13 are participles which function as commands: prepare your minds; be sober-minded. The participles should be understood, however, as subordinate to the main verb. Hence, the meaning of the verse is: ďSet your hope fully on the grace by preparing your minds for action and by being sober-minded.Ē This point is important because we can see more clearly the connection between the preceding paragraph and verses 13-16. Peter emphasized in verses 3-9 that the salvation of believers is eschatological, that it is an end time hope. Now he urges them to set their hope completely on the grace that will be theirs at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The exhortation reminds us that Godís saving work in one sense is unfinished in believers. We await grace that will only be ours when Christ returns, and presumably that grace will finish the sanctifying work so that believers can no longer sin. And yet no encouragement is given for sinning in the meantime. Believers are to live in hope even now, demonstrating that their greatest desire is for the consummation of the work that has begun in them. Believers are to set their hope completely upon Jesus Christ in two ways. First, they are to prepare their minds for action. Hope will not become a reality without disciplined thinking. Thinking in a new way does not happen automatically; it requires effort, concentrating, and intentionality. Second, believers set their hope completely on the end by being sober-minded. Peter was not merely saying that believers should refrain from drunkenness. There is a way of living that becomes dull to the reality of God, that is anesthetized by the attractions of this world. When people are lulled into such drowsiness, they lose sight of Christís future revelation of Himself and concentrate only on fulfilling their earthly desires.

 

The main verb in the sentence that covers verses 14-16 is found in verse 15: be holy. Setting oneís hope completely on Jesus Christís coming [13] means that one lives a holy life now [15]. Believers are to be holy by not being conformed to their former desires. The word butin verse 15 suggests that the command not to conform to former desires is contrasted with the injunction to be holy. Peter recognized that the Christian life is not passive. Ungodly desires still beckon believers and tempt them to depart from God. They must refuse such desires and choose what is good. They are to do Godís will just as obedient children obey their parents. Instead of capitulating to evil desires, believers are to live holy lives. The pattern for holiness is God Himself, who is unremittingly good. The call to goodness is one of the distinctive emphases in 1 Peter [2:12-15,20,24; 3:6,11,13,17; 4:2,19]. The holiness of their lives is to match that of God, who called them to Himself. Calling refers to Godís effectual call in which He infallibly brings people to Himself [1 Peter 2:9,21; 3:9; 5:10]. Calling does not merely mean invite but conveys the idea of Godís power in bringing people from darkness to light. Just as Godís call creates light when there was darkness, so He creates life when there was death. The reference to calling is important, for again grace precedes demand. All holiness stems from the God who called them into the sphere of the holy. The command to be holy indicates that the pilgrim people of God are to live differently. They are to separate themselves from the evil desires of the world and live in a way that pleases God. To be holy is to separate oneself from what is evil. The injunction to holiness embraces all of life. No sphere of life is outside Godís dominion. The summons to holiness is now grounded with a Scripture reference. Peter typically closes sections with scriptural references instead of opening a new section with one. Discerning where the citation comes from is difficult since Peter deliberately cited a theme that is suffused throughout all of Leviticus. Godís people are to live holy and pleasing lives because God is holy and good. Verse 16 reiterates the notion that Godís people are to model their lives after God Himself.

 

Be Reverent!: 1 Peter 1:17-21.

 

[17]And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, [18]knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, [19]but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. [20]He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you [21]who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.[ESV]

 

Because of the inheritance and salvation believers anticipate [1-12], they should set their hope completely on Christís coming [13], devote themselves to holiness [15], and live in fear [17]. Verses 18-21 then explain why believers should be fearful. Did Peter mean that believers should live reverently or in terror? The confidence believers have in Christ seems to be at odds with the idea of living in a terrified state. Abject terror certainly does not fit with the joy and boldness of the Christian life. But there is a kind of fear that does not contradict confidence. A genuine fear of judgment hinders believers from giving in to libertinism. Believers are to live in such fear while they are strangers on earth. Their heavenly destiny raises a social barrier in the here and now between them and unbelievers. Their experience of alienation in the culture can be traced to their shift in values. The main admonition is to live in fear during oneís earthly sojourn, but now we pick up the conditional clause that introduces the verse. What is remarkable here is that Godís tenderness and love as Father is mingled with His judgment and the fear that should mark Christians in this world. Apparently Peter did not think that the two themes negated each other but are complementary. The relationship we have with God is both tender and awesome. The motivation for living in fear is explained in the conditional clause. The one believers invoke as Father in prayer is also the one who will judge them impartially on the last day. Verses 18-19 together form a negative/positive. Peter contrasted what did not redeem believers with the means by which they were redeemed. Knowing [18] gives the reason why believers should live in reverent fear [17]. Peter emphasized that believers were not redeemed with silver and gold. The word redemption signifies liberation and here Peter spoke of redemption from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers. The emptiness of life in the Old Testament is often associated with the idolatry of pagans. Similarly, in the New Testament the word group depicts pre-Christian existence. The life of unbelievers before their conversion is futile, empty, and devoted to false gods. Such a way of life has been handed down from the forefathers, from generation to generation. Verse 19 now communicates positively the means by which believers were redeemed. We learned from verse 18 that money was not the means. Instead, believers were purchased and ransomed by the blood of Christ. Peter contrasted here the perishability of money with the preciousness of Christís blood. The shedding of blood signifies death, the giving up on oneís life. Blood is precious because without it no one can live. The shedding of blood indicates that Christ poured out His life to death for sinners. What Peter teaches is that the blood of Christ is the means by which believers are redeemed. Lamb without blemish refers to the Old Testament sacrificial system being fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ as Godís sinless lamb. In verse 20 Peter contrasted Christ being foreknown before history began with His manifestation at the climax of salvation history for the sake of the readers. Why did Peter state here that Christ was foreknown? How does it fit into the argument? The main theme of the paragraph is that believers should conduct their lives in fear. They should do so because they have been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ [18-19]. Now the readers are informed that this is no afterthought. God determined before history ever began that the Christ would appear at this particular juncture of history as redeemer. The revelation or manifestation of Christ refers to His incarnation. Peter emphasized that believers enjoy the blessing of living at the time when God is fulfilling His saving promises. The stunning privilege of believers is communicated once again because all these things occurred for the sake of you. What a tragedy it would be to throw all these privileges away by ceasing to live in the fear of God. Verse 21 continues from verse 20, noting that believers who live in the days of the fulfillment of Godís promises are believers in God through Christ. They have put their faith in God because of the work of Jesus Christ, whose work is featured in verses 18-19. Peter closed this section of the letter by reiterating themes already highlighted. The God in whom they believed raised Christ from the dead and glorified Him. Christís resurrection of the dead is the foundation of the living hope of believers in 1:3, so too here the hope of believers is rooted in the resurrection of Christ. The vindication and glorification of Christ after His sufferings is the paradigm for believers as well. As Godís pilgrim people they suffer now, but their future hope is resurrection and glorification. They anticipate the day when sufferings will be no more, and they will experience eschatological salvation. It is likely that faith and hope are practically synonyms here. Three imperatives have dominated these verses: hope [13], be holy [15], and live in fear [17]. Verse 21 reminds the readers again that the holy life to which they are called is a life in which they are trusting in Godís promises. A life of holiness is one in which God is prized above all things, in which believers trust and hope in His goodness.

 

Be Obedient!: 1 Peter 1:22-2:1.

 

[22]Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, [23]since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; [24]for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, [25]but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. [2:1] So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. [ESV]

 

[22-23]The theme of the paragraph is found in the exhortation to love, and this command is bounded by two perfect participles, both of which give reasons or grounds for the command to love. The first participle uses the language of purification [22], while the second participle uses the image of begetting and fatherhood [23]. The perfect tense of the first participle signifies a past action that has ongoing consequences. Thus having purified your souls refers to conversion. Moreover, the phrase by your obedience to the truth probably refers to the truth of the gospel. Often in the New Testament the gospel is designated as the truth. The word obedience describes conversion elsewhere in the New Testament, signifying submission to the gospel [Rom. 1:5; 15:18; 16:19,26]. Of course, Peter is not teaching that our obedience is the cause of our conversion. The New Testament is clear that faith, obedience, and repentance are the gift of God. Rather the goal or purpose of our conversion is a genuine love for fellow believers: for a sincere brotherly love. Since love is the goal of conversion, the injunction to love from the heart follows naturally: love one another earnestly from a pure heart. In no way did Peter fall prey to works righteousness since the command to love is rooted in their conversion, in the purification of their hearts by God that enables love. The characteristic of a Christian community is fervent or constant love for one another. We should note that in verses 21-22 Peter spoke of faith, hope, and now love. He did not summon a suffering church to anything other than the mainstream Christian life, to love for one another, and the flames of such love should not be extinguished by the winds of persecution. The command to love is now explained as being rooted in Godís prior saving work. Christians have been born again by the seed of Godís word. The emphasis is on God as the one who granted them new life. This is particularly evident here since the means by which God begat them was the seed of His word. God begetting His children by the seed of the word is likened to a father begetting a child by the seed of his sperm. The idea of new life is present here as well since those who are begotten are born as a result of the divine begetting. Thus Peterís argument is that they should love one another because they have been begotten by God. The means by which God begat His people is imperishable (His living word) rather than perishable seed (human fatherís sperm). The terms used here are among Peterís favorites. The heavenly inheritance of believers is imperishable [1:4], and God is pleased when women have the imperishable qualities of a gentle and quiet spirit [3:4]. On the other hand, believers are redeemed with Christís precious blood, not with perishable things like silver or gold [1:18]. The human sperm of a father is perishable and earthly, and even if it produces children, they too will die eventually. The seed God uses to beget His people, on the other hand, is invincible and incorruptible. The means by which God begets His people is the seed of His word, the preaching of the gospel. Living emphasizes that the word produces life and abiding indicates that the life once activated will never cease.

 

[24-2:1]The word for introduces the Old Testament citation [Isaiah 40:6-8], though Peter did not give any introductory formula, such as ďit is written,Ē but plunged immediately into the Old Testament text. The quotation is an explanation or restatement of verse 23, showing from the Old Testament that the word of God endures forever. The quotation comes from Isaiah 40, where comfort is proclaimed to Israel because God will work once again and restore them from their exile in Babylon. The good news for Israel [Isaiah 40:9] is that God fulfills His promises and that the nations of the world that seem strong cannot resist His promised word to deliver them from exile. Such nations are like grass and the flower of the grass, which perish when the Lordís wind blows upon them. Perhaps Peter thought of the persecutors of his day, who seemed invincible but whose glory was short-lived. Grass and flowers are beautiful in the springtime, but when fall arrives, one would never know that they thrived. The main point from the Old Testament quotation emerges in verse 25: the word of the Lord remains forever. Isaiah therefore supports Peterís argument in verse 23 that the word of God is living and abiding. Isaiah 40 emphasizes that no nation, regardless of its strength, can thwart His promises. The word of the Lord that stands forever was preached to them. The word of the Lord in Isaiah, which represents the promise that God will restore His people from exile and fulfill His promises to Abraham [Gen. 12:1-3], is ultimately fulfilled in the gospel proclaimed to the churches in Asia Minor. The new exodus, the return from exile, and the fulfillment of all Godís promises to Israel have become a reality through the gospel, or the good news that God will come and fulfill His promises to His people. It is this gospel that God has used to beget them to new life, and on the basis of that life they are to love one another fervently and constantly. Believers have been born again by God by means of His word, and hence they are now exhorted to lay aside all in their lives that quenches love for one another. Why did Peter begin with the call to put away evil attitudes and actions in 2:1? Probably because such things destroy love, and responsibility to love was the main idea in verses 22-25. The sins listed tear at the social fabric of the church, ripping away the threads of love that keep them together. Peter signals thereby that no sin is to be tolerated in the community, that sin is to be rejected comprehensively. The first sin named, malice, could refer to wickedness in general. Ill-will toward one another destroys the harmony befitting the community of believers. Deceit and hypocrisy are closely related, for in both cases deceit and falseness have entered the community. Sincere love is to be the goal of believers, and deceit and hypocrisy introduce pretense and insincerity so that the trust necessary for love vanishes. Envy is also contrary to love, for instead of desiring the best for others, it hopes for their downfall or prefers the advancement of oneself to the joy of others. Slander is not limited to spreading false stories about others but also involves disparaging others. Well-timed words that carry insinuations about others are often all that is necessary. Love, of course, finds the good in others and avoids speaking what is negative.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† Therefore in 1:13 connects 1:13-16 with 1:1-12. Why is it so important for believers to recognize that Godís commands are grounded in Godís saving work of grace? What happens to our Christian walk when we separate the imperative statements in Scripture from the indicative statements?

 

2.†††††††† What is the meaning of hope in Peterís letter? How are believers to set their hope completely upon the grace of Jesus Christ?

 

3.†††††††† Why does Peter instruct us in 1:17 to conduct yourselves with fear? What does he mean by fear? How are we to live in fear in our daily Christian walk?

 

4.†††††††† The theme of 1:22-2:1 is found in the exhortation to love. Once again Peter teaches us that Godís commands are always grounded in or flow out of His prior work of grace in our hearts. How do you see this important truth being taught in these verses? [Note the importance of since [23] for the flow of Peterís thought here.]

 

References:

1 Peter, Karen Jobes, ECNT, Baker.

1, 2 Peter, Jude, Thomas Schreiner, NAC, Broadman.