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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

16 December 2012

Week 51 - December 16

December 16
     1 Peter 1-5

Perseverence in persecution. Our induction into the royal priesthood. Our responsibilities as members of Christ’s body. This letter covers it all!

What inspired this letter? God, of course. Historically, however, this letter is dated at AD 64-65, when Nero burned Rome. The Romans were devastated. Their culture was in ruins, as was their city. The pagan Romans even wondered if their “gods” had deserted them or been unable to help them. The people resented Nero, and he realized that he needed to redirect their anger. Who better than the Christians? The rumor spread that it was the Christians who set the fires in room, and soon there was persecution.

The believers suffered persecution (1 Peter 1:6, 2:12, 2:19-21, 3:9, 3:13-18, 4:1, 4:12-16, 4:19), and Peter wrote to help them live victoriously in the midst of all the problems. He answers other questions, as well – questions about the priesthood, secular government, civil disobedience, hostile employers, believing wives (and husbands) influencing their unbelieving spouse, and the expected conduct of Christian women.

Peter opens his letter reminding his readers of the greatness of their salvation. We are to look forward to our heavenly home, but in the mean time, we are members of the royal priesthood, and like Jesus, our High Priest, we are to expect problems in life. Jesus NEVER promised us an easy life, or a life filled with health and wealth when He called us to follow Him!

As believers, we are expected to grow. Growth comes only through desire to be in God’s Word. Peter likens this desire to a baby’s craving for milk.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 (ESV)

You’ve shown your desire for pure spiritual milk by reading through God’s word this year. Have you tasted God’s goodness as a result?

Some of the most difficult words in the New Testament are about our mandate to be submissive to the civil government. No matter our party affiliation, we look at our country and see its evil. We don’t want to obey some laws and we’d like to see other laws strengthened. But the Bible tells us what we are responsible for – obedience to the entirety of the law of the land (unless that law would cause us to break a command or law of God). If you’re looking at America today and wondering “what happened to us”?, remember that it’s all a part of God’s plan… and He expects you to subject yourselves to secular authority.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:13-15 (ESV)

When are we allowed to disobey? The Bible gives us examples.

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:18-20 (ESV)

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.  Acts 5:27-29 (ESV)

What are we to do?

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  Titus 3:1-2 (ESV)

We know that like it or not, God expects us to obey civil government. That obedience extends to everyone “above” us socially, whether or not we find it “fair”.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  1 Peter 2:18-20 (ESV)

From time to time most of us are tempted to give the boss “a piece of our mind”. When we do that, no matter how good it makes us feel at the moment, we lose our testimony. How much better is it to act Christ-like? He suffered humiliating indignities for you. Show His character. Be obedient.

Submission trickles down from the government all the way to the family. Peter addresses husband/wife relationships.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:1-7 (ESV)

Obviously, external beauty has always been prized, but Peter reminds women that it’s inner beauty that counts. Husbands are to honor their wives. When a man treats a woman with respect, and when she feels protected, she is content and his prayers are not hindered. When a woman honors her husband’s family role and treats him with respect, he feels honored. When each person tries their best to be a helpmate to their spouse, the family unit is strengthened.  How simple, yet how difficult, are these seven verses.

We are to live within our society as God expects us to – submitting when required, loving each other, helping each other, praying for each other.  Peter gives us great advice for living within the community as well:

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:7-11 (ESV)

Peter concludes his letter with a discussion of requirements for Christian leadership and the realization that Christ will ultimately win. I close today’s by reminding us of what Peter says about our response to persecution. His advice is both expected and unexpected.

·         Expect persecution (4:12)
·         Rejoice in persecution (4:13-14)
·         Figure out the cause of your persecution (4:15-18) and
·         Trust in God through your persecution (4:19)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.  1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV)

See you at the end of Hebrews!

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