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A Proper Response to the Gospel - I Peter – Part 2
by Heath Robertson from Expositing Light: Volume I, Nr. 4

In the last issue (Article #9: Things into Which Angels Long to Look - I Peter – Part 1), we began an overview of the message of First Peter. Peter wrote to a people who were going through a tough time. Many were removed from their homelands or dealing with some sort of persecution (I Pet. 1:1, 6). Peter quickly reminded them that no matter what happens they were “chosen… to obey Jesus Christ” (vs.1, 2). When we encounter challenges as a Christian, we must never forget the confession we made that brought about those challenges in the first place: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!” Reconsidering this fact helps us to have the right perspective as we deal with challenges.

In this manner, First Peter is really about reinforcing the basic truths of the gospel and learning how to harness its power when we need it. The gospel’s role as “God’s power unto Salvation” is not primarily to lead us to baptism (Rom. 1:16). Although Peter makes the essentiality of baptism clear (I Pet. 3:21), baptism is only the beginning. The gospel is intended to take us from our state as a sinful wreck and remain a transforming power in our lives until we actually attain our salvation. Peter wrote that the prophets and angels longed to see the fulfillment of this “good news” (I Pet. 1:10-12) and we should recognize how blessed we are to be partakers in it. And, as always, God expects a certain response from those whom He blesses. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v.13).

A Natural Response (1:14-2:10)
Peter follows his introductory comments with some observations of how one’s life should naturally be affected by the gospel. If we are not responding correctly in the most basic ways, we will most likely fail in our response to trials. So for starters, going back to our old life without Christ should never be an option. We should consider such an act one of “ignorance” and foolishness (v.14). Peter’s quotation of Lev. 11:44, “you shall be Holy for I am Holy,” implies that God’s true children have always been those that recognize the value of His character and want to imitate it (I Pet. 1:16). The Hebrew writer said that Jesus is the “exact representation of [God’s] nature” (Heb. 1:3). Therefore, simply identifying ourselves as Christians tells others that Christ’s character is so appealing to us that we are willing for our own to be “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

Conduct motivated by “fear” should be another natural response to one’s acceptance of the gospel as true (I Pet. 1:17). The recognition of the impartial justice of God should create two forms of fear in the heart of a believer: a respectful fear because no other is so perfect in justice and a terrible fear because perfect justice does not simply overlook sin! So, the life of a Christian does not focus on how I want to live but how my Creator wants me to live. Of course, a Christian is also constantly aware of God’s mercy and grace that was manifested in Jesus Christ. A good bit of our fear, then, arises from the possibility of disgracing the blood that cleanses us (vs. 18, 19).

Another natural response to the gospel should be fervent love towards others who are also changing their lives because of it (vs. 22). When we become Christians we are “born again” into a new family through the “imperishable… living and enduring Word of God” (vs.23). The relationship we share should cause us to set aside “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and all slander” in our dealings with one another. As children in this new family, we must humbly grow together through the “pure milk of the Word… being built up as a spiritual house… so that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:1-10).

Practical Application (2:11-3:9)
After taking note of the type of effect the gospel should have been making in their lives, Peter continues by applying these things to everyday life. In general, he wrote, “I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (v.11). Not only could they save themselves by heeding Peter’s warning but some of these Gentiles might even be converted by observing their “good deeds” (v.12). To this end, Peter names several areas in which Christians are to be exemplary. We are to respect and obey human authorities (vv.13-17). We are, as “slaves” (which I think in some respects is comparable to employees), to obey our masters (superiors). He goes further and demands that Christians are even to submit to “those who are unreasonable” (v.18). He said that real “credit” or praise for well-doing is deserved by those who suffer “unjustly” (vv.19, 20). This is most easily seen in the light of Christ’s unjust death and the glory that resulted from that (vv.21-25). A Christian’s holiness is to also be seen in their respect for the sanctity of marriage and how they act towards their spouse (vv. 1-7). “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing" (vv.8, 9).

Responding to Suffering (3:10-4:6)
Peter recalls a section of Psalm 34 to introduce how all of the previous information should be helpful when they encounter trials. “…The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (v.12). Therefore, “who can harm you” if the King of Kings is on your side and against all your enemies (v.13)? When suffering comes, it is not the time to fear (v.14). Rather, it is the time to let them know where your hope lies, why you are so confident in it, and leave no room for compromise (v. 15, 16)!

It is often difficult for someone to think clearly when they are experiencing suffering. Knowing this, Peter has caused his readers to stop and think with the proper mindset (1:13). They are now prepared to recognize that “it is better to suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (v.17). “For Christ also died… the just for the unjust” (v.18). The injustice that was done to Christ is outrageous, but His willingness to suffer to accomplish something good was rewarded: “having been put to death in the flesh” He was “made alive in the Spirit” (v.18). He was raised from the dead and restored to His former glory in spirit!

Not only did Christ receive glory for His willingness to suffer but He offers salvation from sins to those who would also suffer for good. Peter offers an example to show that this has always been Christ’s nature. In the same spirit form in which Jesus now exists, He preached to the people who were disobedient “when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah” (v.19, 20). The Scriptures teach that Noah “walked with God” and was a “preacher of righteousness” (Gen. 6:9; II Pet. 2:5). “Being warned by God about things not yet seen” (Heb. 11:7), it is reasonable to suggest that Noah preached to the wicked people of His day. Therefore, Noah, having the “the Word of Christ” dwelling within him, had the Spirit of Christ within him (Col. 3:16; I Pet. 1:11). So, it was through Noah that Christ’s spirit preached to those wicked people and demanded repentance. Only Noah, however, was found righteous. So, he and seven family members were “brought safely through water” (v.20). In much the same way, Christ preaches in spirit through all those that preach the gospel and offers redemption of sins through water baptism. It is through baptism that we make our “appeal to God for a good conscience” (v.21). Again, if Christ hadn’t suffered, died, and been raised from the dead none of this would have been possible (v.21).

“Therefore since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose… so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (4:1, 2). By this time, it should be very clear to Peter’s audience that wickedness is not the way they want to live (v. 3). Others may be surprised and critical of their choice to live like Christ, but they know whose judgment really matters (v.4, 5). Who are “the dead” to which the gospel was preached (v.6)? They are all who have ever heard it. All are dead without Christ! “…God, being rich in mercy,… even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4, 5). So, when it is our time to suffer “we must consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that [we] will not grow weary and lose heart” “for momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (Heb. 12:3; II Cor. 4:17).

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