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Things into Which Angels Long to Look - I Peter – Part 1
By Heath Robertson from Expositing Light: Volume I, Nr. 3

First Peter is such a powerful letter. There is a great deal within this letter that is of utmost importance for every generation of God’s people. There are also a few sections which can be difficult to understand. However, if we consider the main message of the whole letter first we will be better equipped to pull out those really important thoughts and decipher the seemingly difficult sections. Therefore, we will try as best as possible in this issue to bring to light the central message of I Peter and in the following two issues to show how some of the letter’s minor themes tie into it.

Like a speech you might hear from a general about to lead his soldiers into battle, Peter writes with seriousness, boldness, and authority. First Peter was written only about thirty years into the church’s existence, but Peter was already growing old and no doubt tired. However, he recognized certain dangers arising that he had to address to protect his spiritual family and provide them with what they needed not only to survive, but grow! Before His ascension, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, bringing to mind Peter’s three denials of Jesus before His crucifixion. Every time Peter affirmed his love, Jesus replied with “tend my lambs… shepherd my sheep… tend my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Without doubt, those charges burned in Peter’s mind every day of his life. And, even though Jesus told him that tending the sheep would result in his own horrible murder (John 21:18, 19), Peter spent his life trying to fulfill what his friend and Lord had told him to do.

Peter addressed this letter to “those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (I Pet. 1:1). “Aliens” (παρεπιδήμοις) simply means that they were strangers in their current place of residence. “Scattered” (διασπορᾶς) was a common term that the Jews used to refer to their dispersion among the Gentiles as a result of the Greek and Roman Empires (See also John 7:35). However, internal evidence reveals that Peter most likely had Gentiles among his readers as well as Jews (I Pet. 4:3, 4). So it seems that Jewish Christians, like Peter and James, adapted and used “διασπορᾶ” on the basis that the church is the “new Jerusalem” and were also “scattered” abroad (James 1:1; Heb. 12:22). Understanding this, let us not overlook the solemnity of these words. Peter was writing to a people many of whom were removed from their physical homeland and relatives and all of whom as Christians now bore a sense of being removed from their spiritual homeland and family. What should one say in writing to such an audience?!

Peter’s first reminder is that they were “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood” (I Pet. 1:2). Although obedience may not be, in our limited wisdom, the first issue that we would choose to address in such a situation, is this not exactly what Christians need to remember in trying times? That is, we must never let any situation cause us to lose sight of Whom we serve and what He expects of us. It might seem that it would have been more comforting or beneficial for their specific situation for Peter to remind them that there would be no more suffering in heaven and that there they would be eternally reunited with their brothers and sisters in Christ. However, all too often we try to make thoughts of heaven our only source of motivation. Peter wanted them to realize that their “living hope… reserved in heaven” was only realistic because of the truth concerning God’s nature and power revealed through “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Pet. 1:3). In other words, every hope that we have hinges upon who God is and what He wills. The psalmist proclaimed that God Himself was his “strength and shield” (Ps. 28:7). When the Lord reminded perplexed Habakkuk that “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4), what was the object of that faith? Was it not God Himself (Hab. 2:20)? Here again, Peter proclaimed to these Christians that holding on at all costs to what they knew to be true about God and remaining committed to Him were the things that would carry them through their trials (I Pet. 1:6-8). Peter didn’t minimize the value of heaven but wanted them to realize that “the salvation of [their] souls” was not an “outcome of [their] faith” in heaven but in God (I Pet. 1:6-9).

“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things into which angels long to look” (I Pet. 1:10-12). With the previous thoughts serving as an introduction, these three verses contain the central message that the inspired writer tried to communicate. This gospel that they received is the culmination of God’s plan for man. This is similar to the main idea of the letter to the Hebrews. “God… spoke long ago… in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son… For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard …for… how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Heb. 1:1, 2; 2:1-3). Peter mentioned how the prophets longed to know the full meaning of the things that they were saying and all that they really came to understand was that the fulfillment would not happen in their lifetime (I Pet. 1:11, 12). Again, in a similar statement, the Hebrew writer wrote this concerning many of God’s people from former times: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39, 40). Peter and the Hebrew writer wanted their readers to understand that if the fathers and prophets could walk by faith with as little information and evidence that they had then surely we, the ones to whom the mystery has been revealed, can live faithful now!

“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” (I Pet. 3:13).

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