Tag Archive for: 1 Peter

Click here for the reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11.

It is the will of God to exalt sinners. It is their stubborn refusal to receive exaltation that gets in the way. It is their stubborn refusal to humble themselves, to acknowledge that they are that lost coin or lost sheep that keeps them from receiving grace. And so Peter admonishes Christians to begin with humility. This is not the same degree of humility that he expects of Christians towards one another just before our pericope, for this is humility under the mighty hand of God. This humility is the prerequisite for self-denial in love for the brothers.

But the mighty hand of God does not oppress the Christian, as it does the sinner who keeps silent (Ps. 32:4). Rather, the mighty hand of God is over the Christian to shield him from all that would make him anxious. He cares for you, and so you can put your hope in him and not be ashamed. He means to exalt you, and so you can submit to his yoke and receive his burdens, for he has made them easy and light.

Being humble under the mighty hand of God enables the Christian to resist temptation and endure suffering. The devil is an active and constant adversary, but he can only strike where the guard is down and divine protection is set aside. Hence Peter’s call for sober-mindedness and watchfulness. It is not the fearful watching of one who does not know what lurks in the shadows or whether he is outmatched. It is the confident watching of one who knows his enemy and has the weapons to defeat him. It is a watching of one who is eager to remain sharp and attentive, sober and circumspect, because it could only be a self-inflicted tragedy to fall to such an enemy. That confidence and eagerness are rooted in faith, which believes in Christ’s suffering and death for the forgiveness of sins and judgment of the devil.

It is also a faith that unites the Christian to a brotherhood throughout the world. We watch and pray and suffer and endure not because we are alone and fearful, but precisely because we are not alone and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers in the ranks of a mighty force.

Click here for the reading: 1 Peter 2:11-20.

St. Peter had earlier labelled his recipients, “elect exiles.” (1 Peter 1:1). To that description of Christians as exiles he now adds “sojourners.” (1 Peter 2:11). This connects in perfectly with the context of the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, where the Israelites in exile were given hope. 

Christians are here taught a proper view of their place in this world.  Though they have gone from being “not a people,” to being “God’s people,” there is a rest and homeland that has not yet been reached.  St. Paul’s famous dictum: “your citizenship is in heaven,” finds its complement here.

How then should sojourners and exiles live?  This seems to be the overarching question that the epistle reading for Jubilate Sunday addresses.  The preacher will want to consider the possible dangers that sojourners might encounter on their journey to the world to come.  What are the various things that might hinder the journey?  While the making of a list has value, it is the preacher’s special concern to identify those dangers which are most prevalent in his congregation’s own time and place.

The epistle lumps many things together under the phrase, “passions of the flesh, which wage war against the soul.”  If the preacher is in need of help in compiling his list of such passions he will find more than enough from our Lord’s discussion of what comes out of the heart (Mattthew 15:19) as well as St. Paul’s so-called vice lists (e.g. Galatians 5:19-21).  However, it is worth noting that St. Peter doesn’t enumerate these passions.  He opts instead for brevity and the promotion of what he calls “honorable conduct,” and “doing good.”

One pitfall for sojourners is to ignore the lands they are passing through.  While Christians recognize that this world is passing away and that we are not to become at home in it, Peter’s emphasis is on doing good as we journey through this passing age.  So, he tells Christians to “be subject” to the emperor and his governors.  The rationale that is given is that such authorities exist to punish evil-doers and praise those who do good.  The will of God is summed up as, “doing good,” and this is what is the primary concern for Christians in this world. 

As the preacher considers this he will find a helpful distinction to be made by asking the question, “who determines what good works are?”  Subjecting oneself to the emperor and governor is not synonymous with obedience to every executive order that comes down from on high.  The same apostle Peter famously said to the Sanhedrin: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). And, according to tradition, he was crucified upside down for running afoul of the authorities.

Just as there is a pitfall in ignoring the world we now live in, so there is a danger for sojourners to becoming totally at home in it.  Especially in a time when governments disregard the life of the soul and are antagonistic towards any suggestions about the life of the world to come Christians should be urged to exercise discernment.  It is not a rebellious spirit that suspects that governing authorities that will not recognize the humanity of unborn babies do not have the best handle on what it means to “do good.”  What is to be done when governments order citizens to “do what we say is good,” if they contradict what God says is good?  If they appeal to “loving your neighbor,” or, “protecting public health,” does that mean they have accurately understood these things?  If it is God’s will that by doing good we put to silence the ignorance of foolish people, might this include the emperor and his governors? 

The epistle reading concludes with a reminder that doing good will not always be met with praise.  While it is God’s will for the civil estate to praise those who do good, it is commonly not the case that this happens.  The kings of the earth set themselves against the Lord and against His anointed (Ps. 2:2).  The pages of Scripture, the history of the church, and the preacher’s own experience will provide ample examples of this.  Christians are to look for vindication not from Caesar or his governors but from God, who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23).

Click here for the reading: 1 Peter 2:21-25.

“You have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)

Like the Old Testament reading, the epistle for Misericordias is cut from the same pastoral cloth.  Like John 10, 1 Peter 2 employs the glorious substitutionary preposition, “on behalf of,” (Gk: hyper), when discussing Christ’s sufferings.  The beloved, “great exchange,” finds great expression here, with Christ “bearing our sins in His body on the tree.” (1 Peter 2:24). And while the vicarious satisfaction of Christ on behalf of sinners is clearly taught in these verses, St. Peter focuses on another dimension of that atonement.  Namely its exemplary nature.  The healing balm of the forgiveness of sins makes healthy sheep who want to leave the paths of sin and walk in righteousness.

Debates about the atonement are fraught with false dichotomies.  Do you believe either substitutionary atonement or Christus victor?  Are you a proponent of either moral exemplar or vicarious satisfaction? preacher will find in 1 Peter 2 a wonderful example in which to follow to avoid such either/ors.  The Good Shepherd is one who leads his sheep in and out (John 10:3-4).  This leading in and out St. Peter locates in the example of Christ’s sufferings. 

The Christian is called to walk in the footsteps of His Shepherd.  The account of the washing of Peter’s feet employs similar words of Christ’s loving example in John 13.  There St. Peter was graphically taught that Christ, his Lord and Teacher, had come as a servant, and that this was an expression of His love.  When the Lord told Peter that unless he were to wash his feet Peter had “no share” in Him, Peter’s objections melted away and he zealously proclaimed, “then not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9)

While he did not understand what Christ was then doing, by the time of his epistle writing, the Spirit had come to teach Him all things.  The life and death of Jesus is not only a vicarious substitution, but also the model for the disciple.  While the important caveat is necessary, that Christ’s sufferings are qualitatively superior to ours – by HIS wounds you have been healed, they remain exemplary.  In fact, dying to sin and living to righteousness is described as the purpose of Christ’s suffering.  The preacher who fears falling into the ditch of moralism should take note that the other ditch, that of licentiousness (1 Peter 2:16), yawns its mouth just as wide and near to his hearers.

But Peter is not simply describing all sufferings.  “What credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?”  And neither is he advocating suffering for its own sake.  Rather, it is the suffering that comes from doing good that we are to imitate Christ in.  Christ, most poignantly in his passion, was misunderstood, falsely accused, reviled, and finally killed.  This all despite never sinning, deceiving, reviling back, or threatening anyone.  Christians should neither expect nor pursue the praise of the world. 

Instead, we follow the example of our shepherd, “who entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Having become our substitute, Christ now calls us to participate in His way of life, living by faith in the Father’s verdict of approval and scorning the shame of the world.  Again, here the preacher will find the note of encouragement that is so needed for the sheep who suffer like their shepherd.  The one who judges justly has vindicated the Bishop of our souls.  Will he not do the same for those who are walking in His footsteps?