Here are the notes for this week’s Sunday School. The audio is below:
Peter opens his first letter with these words:
Peter, [an] apostle of Jesus Christ – to [the] chosen who are resident foreigners; that is, [the] diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, [chosen] according to God the Father’s plan, by the Spirit’s sanctification, for the purpose of obedience, as well as sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood. May grace and peace be always increasing to you! (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Peter isn’t trying to teach the Trinity; he just assumes it as he writes the opening words of the letter. It’s interesting that Peter doesn’t feel he needs to teach these Christians about the Trinity. We worship one being who is God, and within God three co-equal and co-eternal Persons have always existed – Father, Son and Spirit.
Here are some foundational pillars for understanding the Trinity:
- There is only one God
- God consists of three distinct Persons, with different roles and responsibilities
- Each Person has always existed
- Each Person is fully divine (e.g. not ⅓ divine)
- Each Person is one with the others
Here is the point:
- In 1 Peter 1:1-2, Peter discusses something specific each Person of the Trinity does when God saves somebody. Why do you think Peter spends so much time emphasizing God’s grace in salvation?
Knowing this is the truth about God, put yourself in a Christian’s shoes who heard this letter read, somewhere in Northern Turkey, on the shores of the Black Sea in the early 60s A.D.
- You’ve a Gentile, and you’ve grown up as a pagan. You’ve offered sacrifices to pagan idols at your temples, and worshipped many gods your entire life. Before you became a Christian, the Roman officials began encouraging people to offer incense to an image of the Roman Emperor
- You’ve become a Christian, and joined a small group of disciples. Most of these Christians are former Jews, whose parents first became Christians after making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover and Pentecost about 33 years before. They witnessed Jesus’ triumphal entry, His execution, and heard the rumors about His resurrection. They saw the miracle at Pentecost, when tongues of fire descended upon Christ’s disciples. They saw the results, as these men began to preach and teach the Gospel in languages from all over the world! They, like so many others, repented of their sins and believed in Jesus that day. They brought that faith back home, all those years ago.
- You’ve stopped worshipping the gods, you don’t go to the pagan temples, you don’t offer incense to the gods, and you refuse to worship and reverence the Emperor’s image. Your family has disowned you, and kicked you out on the street. Your entire community has disowned you; maybe they’ve even driven you from your hometown with threats of death.
- You have no friends, family, or social support structure – all you have is your brothers and sisters in Christ, who help provide for you as best they can.
How tempting would it would be to try and mold your pagan beliefs back with your Christian beliefs? How easy would it be to try and rationalize this kind of move? After all, you live in a syncretic culture – your friends and family would love if you’d just add Jesus to your list of pagan gods!
You’d need some pretty good reasons to stick it out and remain a faithful Christians in this kind of environment – so Peter gives you some:
- God has chosen you for salvation
- You’re resident foreigners, and part of a group of pilgrims who live in a very unholy land
- You’re not alone – there are others just like you scattered all throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia!
- You, and every single other Christian, were each chosen according to God the Father’s plan. This means you’re important (not in and of yourself), but you’re important to God
- You were set apart for divine service (i.e. “sanctified”) by the Spirit. God sent the Spirit to shine the Gospel light into your heart and change your mind about sin, righteousness and judgment, so that you would repent and believe
- This was all done so that you’d become a Christian, obey the Gospel, and have Christ’s work applied to your soul
All three Persons of the Trinity are involved in your salvation. If you’re the new Christian in Bithynia, this gives some extraordinary comfort to you as you think about life, late at night, when all your family, friends, community and entire life has gone up in smoke because of your faith. If you’re a Christian today, it does the very same thing.
Peter focus on the Trinity to give you hope. God chose you. The Spirit set you apart for service, so you’d be obedient to the Gospel and have the Son’s work applied to your soul. This is why you can continue on, day by day, week by week, month by month. This is why you can and must persevere for Christ.