Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Peter, part 1

I've been inconsistent at this whole blogging thing for the past few weeks. It's not that I don't have anything to write, but I guess I lack some motivation when every piece that I write is isolated. For some reason I feel like I need something to start and finish instead of just put random thoughts down. So I decided I am going to blog through I Peter. This is for two simple reasons: First, I love the books of I and II Peter. Secondly, I have been working my way through the New Testament for a while and just started I Peter a few days ago... yes, it's really that simple. The blogs will honestly be more for me than for anyone reading them (if anyone does). I want it to be theological and devotional at the same time. I think it will be beneficial in my walk with the Lord to have a place to put my thoughts in paragraph form (I have a notebook I jot stuff down it but it's bits and pieces of what I think about). So, let's get to work.

I Peter 1:1-5

Peter starts off by naming himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He knows who he is and what he has been called to do by the Lord. As soon as Jesus had ascended back into heaven, he took on his role and was instrumental at Pentecost and in Acts 10 when the Holy Spirit came in power to Gentiles as well. He was not without his faults even in this role - one such example is the racism he showed against Gentiles, which is mentioned in Galatians 2 and for which it seems he repented of. Paul is writing to Christians all over the place. This seems important because it does not get specific like Paul normally did when he wrote to a person (like Timothy) or a church with issues that he addressed (like Galatians, Corinthians, etc.). One thing I was not aware of, which my ESV study Bible points out, is that Peter is writing primarily to Gentiles. This is peculiar because he uses the word "dispersion", which was a normal reference to scattered Jews in the Old Testament, as well as the dispersion of Jewish Christians due to persecution in Acts. But the cities he references are Gentile (to the Jews, Gentile means any non-Jew) and point therefore to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to spread the news about Jesus far beyond Jewish borders. Peter has a pastoral heart to encourage these Christians and teach them the Gospel.

Verse 2 blows me away. Few verses have as clear a witness to the Trinity as this verse does. God the Father is mentioned as the One with foreknowledge of his elect people, God the Holy Spirit is said to be sanctifying the believers, and God the Son is the One we are to obey (as the Spirit sanctifies/matures us to do so) and the one who has sprinkled us with his blood. The sprinkling with blood is a reference to the new covenant we have with God through Jesus Christ. In the old covenant, blood was shed and sprinkled in several places around the altar, and even on the people, symbolizing their union with God as His people. Now, the new covenant has been inaugurated, the Lamb of God has come to make a permanent sacrifice, and we are symbolically sprinkled with his blood through faith in Christ, thus becoming God's people. Again, the fact that this is a Jewish guy (Peter) writing to a non-Jewish audience is critical because Peter uses a Jewish reference point (sprinkling with blood) to describe what has happened to them. Here he is clearly indicating that we are all God's people through Jesus Christ, and this is not a primarily Jewish privilege any longer.

The Trinity seriously hurts my mind to even think about. But as a quick side note I did hear a very interesting thought on the Trinity from Tim Keller. He was giving Augustine's take on the Trinity and basically said Augustine is the one from whom most well known arguments about the Trinity have come from throughout history (Augustine lived in the 5th century). Not that Augustine had everything right, but this may be helpful. Here's how the thought goes: if there is no God at all, then chaos rules the universe. If there is a uni-personal God, all by Himself, then power dominates the universe over love because love cannot exist outside of relationship. But if there is a Triune God, each being distinct yet still one God, then loving community is the basis of everything in the universe, for it existed before humans ever came into the world. Interesting idea to me.

Verses 3-5 include an opening statement of praise to God then one long run-on sentence about what God has done. I love long run-on sentences because I'm not allowed to do them in our grammar system, but they show one complete thought in the Scriptures. Verse numbers sometimes get in the way of this and even do damage to the over-arching thought because people will start from a verse that is not the beginning of the sentence, and thus may get an incomplete picture of what is being said. One thing that strikes me here is that the cross is not mentioned here directly - the death of Christ briefly is but the main focal point is what the resurrection of Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. It seems to me that Christians, myself included, spend a great deal of time understanding the cross - why Christ went to it, what was accomplished on it, and so on (which is very, very important to understand) - yet they don't think much about the resurrection. But as Paul said in I Corinthians 15, the whole message of Christianity falls apart if Christ isn't alive. Peter says in verse 3 that we are "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". It is not the death of Christ that gives us this hope, but the FACT that Christ is alive! We have a living hope because our Savior is a living Savior. We have an eternal hope because our God is eternally alive. A dead Savior is no Savior at all. We are also promised an inheritance that will never fade, be defiled, or perish under any circumstances. It is "kept in Heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (v. 5). How sweet is that! It's not our faith that guards our inheritance in Heaven (as if it were up to us to keep or lose it!), but it is guarded by God's power. Faith is important because this happens through faith, but it seems to me here that even this faith is held by God's power.

The opening thoughts of Peter describe the glorious Gospel through which we are saved. It is not only for Jews but for the whole world, as God is the one, true God of the universe. Salvation is a triune effort from beginning to end, and we are also held by God's power through faith, by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit for all eternity. This will all be finally revealed "in the last time". At the end of history, God will fully unveil his sovereign plan and bring us into eternal dwelling with Him. It will be unlike and exceedingly better than anything we could possibly imagine!

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