Here is my rendering of the next passage in my journey to translate and teach my way through the Book of 1 Peter:
Now, the end of everything has now drawn near, so be sensible and self-controlled for the sake of [your] prayers. Above all else, always keep [your] love for one another constant, because love always covers many sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. To the degree that each [of you] has received a gift, use it to serve one another, like good servants of God’s multifaceted grace. If someone speaks, [do it like he’s speaking] God’s [very] words. If someone serves, [he must do so] from the strength that God always supplies, so that God will be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him [belongs] the glory and sovereignty for ever and ever! Amen (1 Peter 4:7-11).
These is some very good advice! Actually they’re a series of commands, which flow from that enigmatic statement at the very beginning:
Here are some questions to consider from the passage:
What is the “end of all things?” What is Peter referring to? How does this relate to the list of commands in this passage?
Why should Christians be sensible and self-controlled? Where else in this letter did Peter say something similar about how your behavior is linked to how God hears your prayers?
What does Peter mean when he says “love always covers many sins?”
What did “hospitality” look in Peter’s day, in his culture? What does it look like, today, in our culture?
Why does Peter call God’s grace of bestowing gifts to Christians as “multifaceted,” or “manifold” or “varied?”
What are some of the gifts the New Testament identifies believers have?
Who does Peter want you to use your gifts for? What does this tell us about the congregation being a local community of believers?
What does Peter suggest about how gifted you are in a particular area?
What kind of “speaking” is Peter referring to?
Where does the strength come from to serve others in the church? What does this tell us about motivation for service?
What is the reason and motivation for Christians to use their spiritual gifts for each other?
I’m looking forward to going through this passage over the next few weeks.
Life is messy. The Apostle Peter understood that. And, because he wrote what God wanted him to write, that means God understands it, too.
In theory, a Christian shouldn’t marry a non-Christian. Doesn’t always work out that way. Never mind why it doesn’t – we can all agree that, sometimes, it doesn’t happen that way. What if one person becomes a Christian when she’s already married? Should she pack up and hit the road? Not at all.
These are the gritty questions of real life. Life is messy. Life is hard. Life isn’t neat and tidy. As I said, Peter understands that. He has some practical advice for us on that score (1 Peter 3:1-6; from my own translation):
In the same way, you wives must submit yourselves to your own husbands, so that even if some are being disobedient to the word, they might be won over without a word by your way of life when they see your holy conduct, along with your respect towards God.
Don’t let your beauty be simply external, like the braiding of hair and wearing of gold, or putting on [fancy] clothes. Instead, let your beauty be [from] the inner person, from the heart, through the immortal [character] of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which is very precious in God’s eyes. Because this is also how the holy women from the past who hoped in God made themselves beautiful – by submitting themselves to their own husbands. That’s what Sarah did; she obeyed Abraham by calling him, “Sir.”
You’ve now become her daughters! So, do what’s right and don’t fear any husband who is intimidating.
Why does Peter call the Christian spouse to stay in the relationship? So that the believer might win the unbeliever to Christ. He tells the Christian not to lord it over the spouse, not to be filled with self-righteousness. He tells the believer to be patient and, if necessary, not say anything at all – to let her Christ-like way of life and holy conduct speak for itself.
There’s much more to be said. I’ll get there in Sunday School . . . in about two months or so!
Always submit yourselves to [your] masters in a very respectful way; not only to the good and kind, but also to those who are cruel. Because God is pleased if, because a man is mindful of Him, he endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
Here’s why I say this – how is it to your credit if, when you slaves are committing sin and being roughly treated, you endure it? Instead, this is favor with God: if, when you’re doing right and suffering, you endure it – this is why you slaves were called to salvation!
You see, even Christ suffered for you slaves to leave behind an example for you, so you’d follow in His footsteps. He didn’t break God’s laws, and no lies were found in His mouth. Although He was viciously insulted, He didn’t insult [them] back. Even though He suffered, He never threatened to make them suffer in return. Instead, Christ kept entrusting [Himself] to the One who judges right.
He Himself carried our sins in His body to the cross, so that we believers would first be freed from the power of these sins, and then live for righteousness. By His wounding you were healed. What I mean is that, like sheep, you were wandering away, but now you’ve been returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
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.
I’m preparing to work through 1 Peter 1:1-2 this coming Sunday, for Bible study. The best way to teach through a book is to outline the entire thing to understand the flow of the argument, and then teach those units of thought individually. In my own outline, I kept 1 Peter 1:1-2 separate from vv. 3-9. Here are some good questions to ponder from this passage:
What is the overall point of 1 Peter 1:1-9? Why do you think Peter spends so much time emphasizing God’s grace in salvation? Is he trying to teach systematic doctrine, or does he have another point?
What does Peter mean by “chosen?” How does this tie into his main point in the next section (1 Peter 1:3-9)? What difference does this make for your life?
What does Peter mean by “resident foreigners . . . the diaspora” How does this tie into his main point in the next section (1 Peter 1:3-9)? What difference does this make for your life?
Why does Peter emphasize Christians are “chosen according to God the Father’s plan?” Is he specifically trying to teach doctrine, or does he have another reason?
How does God actually carry out His plan of choosing? Who is the agent who gets this done?
What does Peter mean when he wrote that you are chosen “by the Spirit’s sanctification?” What is sanctification? How does this tie into his main point in the next section (1 Peter 1:3-9)? What difference does this make for your life?
What are the two purposes, or results, of God’s choosing His people? That is, once the Spirit sanctifies a person, what happens next?
What obedience is Peter talking about? How does this tie into his main point in the next section (1 Peter 1:3-9)? What difference does this make for your life?
What “sprinkling” is Peter talking about? What does he mean? How does this tie into his main point in the next section (1 Peter 1:3-9)? What difference does this make for your life?
The translation above is mine; here are the detailed notes. No matter which Bible translation you use, you’ll still be able to answer these questions!
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly dedicated unto thee, and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
From The Book of Common Prayer (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007), 832-833.
To remind and encourage Christians what God has done for them, and in light of that, encourage them to trust God, grow and live Godly lives in the midst of trials and sufferings, which all Christians have been called to endure for good and holy reasons.
This is a book for real people, living real lives, facing real problems, in a society and culture that really hated Christ and everything His Gospel stands for. Peter is a very practical man:
He wrote 1 Peter to tell us why trials and suffering comes our way, and how to deal with them.
He wrote 2 Peter to tell us why false teachers and deceivers come our way, and how to deal with them.
Peter gives us a Christianity completely different from the glossy, pop-Christian shallowness that largely characterizes the evangelical world in the West. Peter lives in a world that is very hostile to Christ and the Gospel. So do the people he writes to.
This background informs the way he writes, what he emphasizes, and the warnings he gives. Peter is a very serious man, a very sober man, a very concerned man – and he says all Christians should be, too
This seriousness, this soberness, this practical and “real” mindset is the worldview, the lens, through which he views the world and the faith. It should be ours, too.