In the last study we completed our study of 1 Peter.  In this study we introduce 2 Peter and look at 1:1-11.  Peter’s salutation is fairly typical.  He names himself as the author of the letter, addresses it in a very general way to those who believe in Jesus, and adds a Christian blessing. 

The main introductory issue in respect to this letter is the question of authorship.  Many scholars, including many evangelicals, believe that Peter did not write this letter.  They are convinced that someone else wrote it in his name in the second century.  I am not going into the arguments on either side.  Let me just say that those who believe that the author was someone other than Peter can and do build an impressive case.  On the other hand Donald Guthrie, among others, does a masterful job of presenting the case for authorship by the apostle Peter.  My interpretive approach is to take biblical books at face value unless someone proves that it can’t be done.  To this point no one has demonstrated that the apostle Peter could not have been the author of this letter. 

As for the date of the letter, if a second century person wrote it, obviously it had to be written that late.  But if Peter wrote it, it would have been written before his death in the mid-sixties of the first century.  The only evidence we have regarding who the recipients are is found in chapter three, verse one, which suggests that the recipients were the same as in 1 Peter.  But that assumes authorship by Peter.  If someone else wrote the letter in the second century, then the recipients are unknown. 

In verse one Peter says of the recipients that their faith was as precious, meaning precious to God and themselves, “as ours,” meaning the apostles and other early believers.  In other words they weren’t second class Christians.  God values the faith of all Christians, and our faith admits us to the same privileges as the apostles and other early believers. 

Then in verse two notice that Peter mentions “knowledge of God.”  Knowing God, or Christ, is an important concept to Peter, as we shall see, beginning in verse three. 

            The body of the letter begins with verse three: “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us.”  Thus Peter opens his letter with a discussion of knowing Christ.  Certain benefits come from knowing him.  Knowing Christ is the way to life and godliness.  And those are just the first of several benefits Peter says come from knowing Christ.  By “life” he means eternal life in contrast to eternal death; and by “godliness,” he means being like God, being just and holy.  And notice that these benefits come form “his divine power.”  We have no power in ourselves to enter eternal life, or to be godly.  Those become part of our lives by the divine power of the One who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 

            Now then, Peter continues in verse four to say that knowing Christ provides us with “precious and very great promises.”  And these promises, backed of course by God’s power, enable us in two waysFirst, they enable us to “escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust.”  There is hope for those mired in an addiction to shopping or pornography.  We must never underestimate the power of God and his promises. 

            Then second, God’s promises backed by God’s power enable us to “become participants of the divine nature.”  Wow!  This is the most blatant expression in the New Testament of our spiritual union with God in Christ.  Peter mentioned sharing “in the glory to be revealed” in his first letter (5:1), but he said nothing this clear.  The apostle John taught something very similar in John 17:21, where he quoted Jesus’ famous high priestly prayer.  Jesus prayed on behalf of the believers to come, which includes us “that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.” 

            In other words there is a mystical union of believers with Christ in Christ; and Peter declares us “participants,” or literally “sharers” (koinonoi), in the divine nature.  Now he doesn’t explain what that means, but what we know is enough for me.  We are God’s children in a real way.  We are one with him in Christ in a real way; and thus we are empowered in a real way to live lives of holiness and service.  The Eastern Orthodox churches traditionally have made more out of this idea of participation in Christ than those of us in the western churches.  They have a doctrine of theois that says the union with Christ in some sense deifies our humanity.  It never has been completely clear to me what they mean by that, but some of them have talked about absorption of our humanity by God’s divinity. 

            All right, having sketched the benefits of knowing Christ, Peter next turns in 1:5-7 to the part we have to play in the process.  And he does it in an interesting way.  He gives one virtue after another that that we should “make every effort” to add to our faith.  Barclay calls the series a “Ladder of Virtues,” because Peter pictures it as a building of these virtues one upon another. 

            Since knowing Christ is so important, Peter gives us, here, a way to grow in the faith and thus in knowledge of Christ.  He assumes the recipients have faith, because they are believers.  But then they are to make every effort to add to that faith “goodness,” “knowledge,” “self-control,” “perseverance” (“endurance” in NRSV), “godliness,” “brotherly kindness” (“mutual affection” in NRSV), and love.  In Greek the word for “brotherly kindness” is philadelphian, “brotherly love;” and the word for love is agapen, which is unconditional love. 

Notice that these virtues have to do with moral development and that unconditional love is the capstone of the process.  It seems unfortunate to me that our churches are saying so little about moral development these days.  We cannot assume that the people in our churches, especially the young people, are characterized by these virtues. 

            All right, in verses 8-11 Peter gives some results of growth in the knowledge of Christ and lack of growth in them.  Peter mentions two positive results in verse eight.  If we have these virtues and they are increasing in our lives, we will be neither ineffective nor “unfruitful” (NIV “unproductive”) in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus.  That suggests that we will be effective and fruitful in that knowledge. 

On the other side, in verse nine, if we aren’t growing in these virtues, it will mean we are we nearsighted, which leads to blindness and being “forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.”  The mentioning together of near-sightedness and blindness is a bit unusual.  The idea is either that “being nearsighted he becomes in effect blind,” or by blinking he shuts his eyes to what he doesn’t want to see, “shutting his eyes to the truth” (Kelly, p. 308).  In either case those who do not pursue the virtues end up blind to spiritual truth.  And the blindness is self-imposed. 

            The idea of being forgetful of the cleansing of one’s past sins is interesting.  Most scholars mention Baptism here, I suppose because most Christians in those ancient times received the forgiveness of their past sins at their Baptism.  But the idea is that if we aren’t willing to grow and develop morally, that demonstrates that we are forgetting what God has done for us. 

            “Therefore,” based on what he has said, Peter calls upon the recipients, and us as well, to quote, “be all the more eager to make your call and election sure” (verse 10, NIV).  He keeps driving home the point that we must do our part.  By developing these virtues in our lives we will make firm, or sure, our calling and election. 

            Let me use an imperfect, but perhaps useful, analogy.  A few years ago it was in the news that a rich man went to an inner city school where very few of the children graduated from high school, let along from college.  I am uncertain what grade he went to.  I think it was the seventh, but that may be incorrect.  At any rate he promised all of those seventh graders that he would pay their way through all four years of college if they could make it.  The event was given rather wide exposure on TV.  The man stayed in touch with the kids, rather than just make the promise and leave for five years.  I saw a TV follow up on that story when those kids reached collage age.  I was amazed at how many of those kids stayed in school and went to college.  I no longer remember the numbers or the percentages; but it was impressive. 

            The point is a lot of those kids had sufficient incentive to work hard at their academics, to stay in school, and to make it through college.  They experienced a kind of grace, the undeserved favor of a rich man.  But they had to do their part.  And by doing their part, they entered the world of the educated as a result. 

            Peter is telling us that we have experienced the grace of God.  Our sins have been forgiven, and we have spiritual opportunity ahead of us.  But we must do our part.  If we will add the seven virtues he has set forth to our faith, and develop morally, we will make sure our calling and election.  We won’t stumble, and we will enter the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ. 


With this study of 1 Peter, chapter five, we bring our study of the letter to a close.  At first it seems that Peter has shifted his focus here in the final chapter.  He begins in verses 1-4 by teaching about the responsibility of elders.  Then in verse five he addresses the younger church members.  And none of that has anything to do with the theme of suffering that Peter has been working on throughout this third part of the letter.  But notice that Peter comes back to the theme of suffering in verses 6-11.  So in Peter’s mind his discussion of the role of elders fits that context.  In other words, his instructions to the elders are instructions that are important for them when their community is under persecution. 

            By elders Peter didn’t simply mean the old people.  He was addressing those who held the office of elder in the churches to which the letter was being sent.  The Christian office of elder has a Jewish background.  You will recall that fairly early in the life of the new nation of Israel, the governing became too much for Moses to handle.  Thus the Lord founded the office of elder by telling Moses to appoint seventy elders (chosen from elders in age and wisdom) to help him govern the people.  By the first century AD when Peter wrote this letter, the Jews had elders as an office governing every town and synagogue. 

            Since all of the earliest Christians were Jews, they naturally followed the Jewish model of governance.  Therefore the Christians appointed elders to govern their communities.  Elders generally were older in age as well, but not every older person would have held the office of elder, so one has to keep that distinction in mind. 

            In Acts 14 we see Paul and Barnabas, during Paul’s first missionary journey, following this practice of appointing elders in Christian communities.  He and Barnabas founded Christian communities in several towns, primarily in the Roman province of Galatia.  They easily could have continued East and returned to Antioch via Paul’s hometown of Tarsus.  But instead they decided to revisit the places where they had founded churches to strengthen and encourage the new little Christian communities.  Since they recognized that church communities need organized leadership to be effective, they appointed elders in every church (14:23). 

            In Titus 1:5 we see Paul providing for the same kind of leadership for the churches of Crete.  Thus we see that in New Testament times, the office of elder was a local church office. 

In Acts 20:28 we learn that the office of elder and overseer were the same.  Paul had summoned the elders of the Ephesian church, and he said to them, “Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his Son.”  Notice that Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders are very similar to those of Peter to the elders among his recipients.  But the point I am making now is that Paul thought of the office of those elders as an office of oversight.  So elder and overseer were the same office.  That’s important, because the term translated “overseer” became the word used for the later office of bishop.  The Greek word for “overseer” or “bishop” is episkopos.  That is the Greek word from which we get our English word “episcopal.”  The Episcopalian Church is called that, because their clerical leaders are bishops. 

            Now coming back to 1 Peter, I think it’s interesting that Peter identified himself here as a fellow-elder.  You will recall that he identified himself in the salutation of the letter as an apostle.  Apparently Peter, in addition to being an apostle, held the office of elder in a local church, probably the Jerusalem church. 

            Peter also says two additional things about himself in verse one.  First, he declares himself “a witness of the sufferings of Jesus.”  We know, of course, that he was not present at the cross.  But he was present at the trial.  And second, Peter declares himself to be “one who shares in the glory to be revealed.”  Since it was something he already was experiencing in the present, he may have had in mind the fact that he witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and transfiguration.  And of course he was looking forward to the second coming. 

            Next, in verse 2-3, we find Peter’s exhortation to the elders.  It consists of one instructive command.  They were to shepherd God’s flock by exercising oversight.  Thus Peter saw the shepherding role as the primary role of elders.  An elder has responsibility to look after the welfare of the people in his or her church, especially their spiritual welfare.  Of course Peter had a particular reason to think that way.  You will remember that when Jesus restored Peter to favor after Peter’s three-fold denial, Jesus told Peter three times to feed his sheep or lambs (Jn. 21:15-17). 

            Now then, Peter told them to approach the task in three waysFirst, they were to do it “not under compulsion but willingly,” as God would have them do it.  None of us should be doing the work of ministry because we have to, because it is our job.  It is a calling from God, and we ought to approach it willingly, with joy and awe. 

            Second, Peter told the elders they should approach their ministry not for gain, meaning not for what they could get out of it, but eagerly.  I firmly believe that prominent ministers and TV evangelists are going to be stunned when they see their works judged in the end time.  And I don’t say that from a superior point of view.  The difference between them and me is that I will not be surprised if much of what I have done is burned up.  Many of them will be surprised at how much of their works are burned up in judgment.  They really seem to think that they are special agents of God to our time.  And they see the rich lifestyle they lead as deserved.  Billy Graham is a refreshing exception. 

            Third, Peter told the elders not to lord it over those in the flock [literally their portion or lot], but rather to set the right kind of example for them.  Of course that’s easier said than done.  There is a fine line between being a good leader and lording it over people.  But the Holy Spirit is available to enable us to walk that line successfully. 

If the elders take this three-fold approach to their ministries, Peter promised they would win a “crown of glory” when “the chief shepherd,” Jesus, appears.  That is a wonderful promise, even if the crown of glory is a small one.  And notice that the glory of those crowns never will fade away. 

            Now then, in verse five Peter turned to the young men in the churches, though it is difficult to know exactly what he meant.  The first part of the verse reads, literally, “In the same way, younger men submit yourselves to older men.”  The NIV translates it that way: “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.”  But remember, the word “older man” is the word Peter used for those who hold the office of elder.  So the NRSV translates it, “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders.” 

Thus you can see that we have two interpretations of Peter’s words.  The NIV translators decided that Peter meant to contrast younger men with older men; whereas the NRSV translators decided that Peter meant to contrast non-elders with elders.  The context allows for either interpretation.  And both would have been true.  The important part of the verse is the second part, which declares, “And all of you must cloth yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another.”  Yes, the young should respect those who are older, and non-elders should respect the authority of elders, but all must be humble.  Peter put an exclamation point on the statement by quoting Prov. 3:34: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 

            In verses 6-11, Peter uses the message of Prov. 3:34 as a springboard into a final series of exhortations for everyone to whom he was writing.  Notice once again the “therefore” in verse six.  Therefore, based on all that I have told you, do certain things, the first one of which is “humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God.”  Peter’s idea here is that God knows better than we do what is best.  To humble ourselves under his mighty hand means to trust his ways and guidance, so that our destiny will be secure.  God will exalt us in due time. 

Then second, “Cast all your anxiety on him.”  This was not a new teaching.  We find it in Ps. 55:22: “Cast your burden on the Lord.”  And we heard similar things from Jesus, who said in the context of his explanation of the heavenly Father’s care of birds and lilies, “do not worry about your life” (Mt. 6:25), and “do not worry about tomorrow” (Mt. 6:34).  As Peter tells us, God cares for us, and so we can trust him. 

            Third “Discipline yourselves,” or as the NIV translates it, “Be self-controlled.”  Of course self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.  But it still takes effort on our part.  We have a responsibility to keep ourselves under control. 

Fourth, “keep alert” or watchful.”  The devil is like a roaring lion that seeks to devour us.  Therefore we not only must keep ourselves under control, we also must stay alert.  That is, we have a part to play in our security. 

            Fifth, “resist him,” that is, the devil.  Peter undoubtedly remembered how the devil had overcome him at one time.  And so he issues a warning to his recipients.  So we can say about all of these last three items that we must do our part.  To cast all of our cares on God doesn’t mean we do nothing.  Barclay gives a famous quotation from Lord Cromwell.  Cromwell’s advice to his troops before a battle was : “Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.”  Barclay himself summarizes the situation in simple terms, “Trust and effort go hand in hand.”

            Finally, sixth, be “steadfast in your faith , for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.”  Peter knew from experience that persecution tests one’s faith severely, and so he exhorts them to maintain their faith in the midst of it.  But he encourages them by declaring at the end of the paragraph: “after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself, as the NRSV translates, restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”  The NIV translates the same clause, “will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”  Those two differing translations indicate the difficulty of getting the Greek words Peter used into English. 

Verses 12-14 are concluding remarks.  In verse 12 Peter indicates that he used Silvanus, or Silas, as his secretary for the writing of the letter.  Then in verse 13 Peter sends greetings from the church in “Babylon,” probably meaning the church at Rome, and from Mark.  This would be John Mark, the content of whose Gospel supposedly came from Peter.  Peter calls Mark his son, but Mark wasn’t the blood son of Peter; he was his son in the Lord. 


In this study we take up 1 Peter 4:12-19, which continues Peter’s exhortations regarding Christian suffering.  Indeed he focuses quite sharply on suffering as a Christian.  Peter shares at least six things about Christian suffering in these verses.  First, he declares that it’s to be expected.  He writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you.”  Christians are different from unbelievers.  We have different values; we behave differently; and we interact with others differently.  Indeed our living for God tends to create animosity in some unbelievers and even in some religious folks. 

To take an Old Testament example, in the earliest days of humanity Cain, who was a religious man, nevertheless responded to the righteousness of his brother Able by killing him in a jealous rage.  Similarly, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day responded to his righteousness by plotting against Jesus and crucifying him.  And Jesus taught his disciples that they should expect opposition and persecution from the world (John 15:17-16:4).  So Peter simply was reminding his readers that nothing had changed.  They should not be surprised that they were experiencing a fiery ordeal.  Indeed they should expect as much. 

Second, persecution is a test: “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you.”  This was not the first time Peter used the image of fire to describe the testing of persecution.  Back in 1:6-7 Peter had suggested that the fire of persecution was testing the genuineness of the recipients’ faith.  He repeats that idea here.  We use the image of fire in the same way today.  We say of someone who is undergoing a severe trial, “He is really going through the fire.”  So suffering for Christ is to be expected, and it is a test. 

            Third, we are to rejoice when we suffer for Christ: “do not be surprised . . . But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings so that you may be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.”  I like the way the NIV captures the sense of the last clause: “so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 

A biblical example is found in Acts 5:27 and following, where Peter and the other apostles were hauled before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem because of their witness for Jesus.  They had been forbidden to teach in his name.  But when arrested for doing it, Peter and the others testified, “We must obey God rather than men.”  They were severely beaten as a result.  But as verse 41 says, “As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” 

Unbelievers can’t understand this at all.  They want to know how anyone can rejoice in suffering.  The answer to that question is seen in the experience of those apostles.  Their love relationship with Jesus overpowered the pain of their suffering.  And the reason unbelievers fail to understand is because they never have experienced the grace of God.  So we are to rejoice when we suffer for our Lord Jesus. 

            A fourth thing Peter tells us about Christian suffering is that such suffering is a sharing in Christ’s sufferings: “rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings.”  The main question here is, what sufferings of Christ?  Although there is a bit of a mystical element in Peter’s statement, I am convinced (along with most scholars) that Peter didn’t mean that we somehow share in the sufferings of Jesus’ passion.  Christian suffering certainly has no saving value.  On the other hand, I believe Peter meant more than simply the sentimental idea that Jesus’ is present with us when we suffer for him (Wiersbe).  That certainly is true, but Peter undoubtedly had in mind more than that. 

Peter wants us to understand that when we suffer and sacrifice for Christ, we are suffering as he suffered.  Thus we identify with his suffering.  It is a way of taking up our cross and following him.  As the apostle Paul puts it in Phil. 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.”  Thus Peter and Paul agree that by suffering for Christ we somehow mystically enter into his sufferings.  That’s why we can rejoice in the midst of terrible suffering. 

            All right, Christian suffering is to be expected.  It is a test.  We are to rejoice when we experience it.  And it is a sharing in Christ’s sufferings.  Fifth, Christian suffering ultimately is a way to God’s glory.  Peter declares that we are to share in Christ’s sufferings “so that” we “may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.  He is talking about the end time.  Jesus’ glory will be revealed in all of its fullness when he comes again in the end time. 

            As you well know, the second advent of Christ is the time of judgment.  It is the time when evil will be destroyed, when justice will be done, and when rewards and penalties will be finalized for the righteous and wicked alike.  And as Peter tells us here, it also will be the time when Christ’s glory will be revealed. 

Peter doesn’t explain the connection he sees between Christian suffering and God’s glory; but he undoubtedly sees a direct connection, because he intertwines the two themes here.  Notice that Peter goes on to say in verse 14, according to the NRSV, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.”  The NIV translates the last part, “you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”  I believe either translation is legitimate.  And either way Peter meant this: just as there is a mystical connection between our suffering and Christ’s, there is a mystical connection between our suffering and God’s glory.  Just as Jesus’ suffering ended in glory, so will our own. 

            The final point, the sixth, is that Christian suffering is a blessing to the Christian.  Peter says, “you are blessed because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, rests upon you.”  It is true, as Peter mentioned in verse 13, that our suffering will be transformed into glory in the end time.  That is a great truth.  But there is another great truth here.  We don’t have to wait until the end time to experience God’s glory.  We can experience it in the present through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  When we are filled with the Spirit, we are blessed by his presence.  And to be filled with the Spirit while suffering enables us to experience God’s blessing in ways the unbelieving world cannot fathom.  The presence of the Spirit explains the calm bravery of Christians who sang praises to God while facing lions in the Coliseum, or while bound to a stake in the midst of a blazing fire.  Glory to God! 

            After setting forth the six points about Christian suffering, Peter quickly reminds us in verses 15-16 that not all suffering is appropriate.  We must not suffer for criminal acts, or for inappropriate meddling in the affairs of others.  That kind of behavior isn’t Christian.  But if we suffer because we are a Christian, that glorifies God. 

            Then in verses 17-18 Peter gives the reason for proper behavior.  God’s judgment is coming, and it will begin with God’s own people.  Sometimes I wonder if Christians in general ever give any thought to that fact.  Throughout the New Testament we are taught that God will judge all of us.  We believers will not be judged for salvation.  We already are part of God’s family, because we have confessed our sins, repented, and believed in Jesus.  Therefore our sins are forgiven, and we are reconciled to God.  But our works will be judged.  And we will be rewarded, or not, accordingly. 

            Then Peter states the obvious.  If we are to be judged, “what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  The implication is that their judgment will be severe.  And Peter quotes Pro. 11:31 to support his contention: “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?” 

Then in verse 19 Peter concludes the entire section by giving us two exhortations about what to do when under persecution.  Notice that Peter addresses those who are suffering in accordance with God’s will.  Of course he means God’s permissive will.  And he offers two instructions. First, they are to entrust themselves to a faithful creator.  In other words trust God no matter what happens.  And second, they are to continue to do good, meaning good works. 


In this study we continue with the third of the three parts of the body of 1 Peter in which Peter exhorts the recipients about Christian suffering.  In the last study, we studied 3:18b-22, one of the most difficult passages in the entire New Testament.  In the verses immediately preceding that passage, we saw Peter once again talking about living righteously, a theme that has been present consistently throughout the epistle.  He challenged us to sanctify Christ in our hearts, that is, to set him apart as the final authority for our lives at the core of our beings.  In the meantime while suffering, and especially while being persecuted, we must be prepared to defend our faith.  And we should do it with “gentleness and reverence,” or “respect” (NIV). 

            Then in the last study we moved to 3:18b-20.  We discussed several major questions.  The first question arose from Peter’s statement that Jesus was made “alive in the spirit.”  The question was, does “the spirit” refer to Jesus’ human spirit, or to the Holy Spirit?  I concluded that Peter meant Jesus’ human spirit.  Thus the phrase has to do with Jesus’ humanity remaining alive as a spirit in the intermediate state following his physical death. 

The second question was, who were the “spirits” to whom Jesus preached.  Were they the spirits of human beings, or spiritual beings?  I favored the view that Peter meant human beings, specifically those humans who didn’t obey God in the days of Noah and who were destroyed in the flood. 

            The third question was, what did Peter mean by the “prison?”  Was it the part of hell (tartarus) that has been prepared for wicked angels, according to 2 Pet. 2:4, or the part of hell (gehenna) where the spirits of wicked humans dwell?  I favored the latter. 

            Finally, fourth, we asked, what it was that Jesus proclaimed to the spirits in prison?  Was it a message of judgment, or of the gospel?  Because I favored the idea that the spirits were human spirits, I leaned towards the view that it was a message of the gospel rather than judgment. 

We also discussed the passage’s relationship to the line in the Apostle’s Creed that says, “He descended into hell.”  I concluded that it is possible there is a direct relationship, that the line may have been added to the creed, because of 1 Pet. 3:19. 

            Finally we discussed Peter’s mention of the sacrament of Baptism.  Peter declared that the saving of Noah’s family at the time of the flood was a “figure” of baptism.  That is, the Old Testament salvation of Noah’s family by water was a type of the New Testament salvation by water, Baptism.  So we talked a bit about typology.  As the floodwaters lifted Noah’s family to safety, because of Noah’s faith in what God had told him; likewise today, Baptism symbolizes our faith in the resurrection of Jesus, which saves us. 

We noticed that Peter went on to say that the saving factor in the New Testament situation is not Baptism per se, but Christ’s resurrection.  It is our faith in the resurrection of Jesus (expressed in our Baptismal vows) that saves us. 

            Finally we saw Peter make three closely related statements in verse 22.  The first was that Jesus had “gone into heaven.”  Of course that was a reference to Jesus’ ascension.  The second was that Jesus “is at God’s right hand.”  That means that Jesus, by virtue of his resurrection and ascension, has returned to his place of power in the Godhead.  And the third was that the “angels, authorities and powers” are subject to Jesus.  That completes the review.

            All right, please turn to 4:1-11, which continues Peter’s exhortations regarding Christian suffering.  First, 4:1-2 must be interpreted according to its context.  The “therefore” in verse one points us back to the previous paragraph, where Peter declared in chapter three, verse eighteen, “Christ suffered for sins.”  Of course that suffering took place on the cross.  Then Peter said, in verse 21, that Baptism symbolizes our salvation that comes through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

            Then here in 4:1 Peter says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body [literally in the flesh] arm yourselves with the same attitude [or mind], because he who has suffered in his body [again literally in the flesh] is done with sin” (NIV).  Remember, these people to whom Peter was writing were suffering persecution.  And Peter exhorted them to have the same mind that Jesus had when he suffered. 

            And Peter tells them why in verse two: “As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”  Our faith isn’t really complicated.  We believe in Jesus, and suffer if necessary, in order to be done with sin and live the rest of our lives for the will of God.  Anyone can understand that.  Not everyone is willing to do it, but everyone can understand it. 

            The “Gentiles” in verse three are the unbelievers.  That is because the early Christians adopted Jewish language to describe their Christian experience.  Peter already had told them to be done with sin.  And now he gives them some specific examples of the sin they are to avoid: “living in licentiousness [debauchery in NIV], passions [literally lusts], drunkenness, revels [orgies in NIV], carousing, and lawless idolatry.”  That’s quite a list. 

And notice verse five.  What we see there is more common than you might think.  When a person receives Christ for salvation, it usually means a change in behavior.  And old friends often don’t understand why we don’t want to do the old sinful things anymore.  But behavior is important, because as we see again and again in the New Testament, sinners and saints alike will be judged according to their works.  As Peter puts it, in respect to the sinners, they will have to render an account to the one who “judges the living and the dead.” 

            Now notice how the last clause of verse five sets up verse six.  God judges both the living and the dead.  And then he says, “For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.” 

            Now this verse is controversial like the verses we studied in the previous study.  Indeed many scholars tie this verse into their interpretation of 3:18b-22.  If one takes the line of interpretation that I’ve taken, then this verse supports that interpretation.  That is, if the spirits to whom Jesus made his proclamation were the spirits of human beings, then this verse suggests that the proclamation he made to them was the gospel. 

If, however, one takes the other view that the spirits to whom Jesus made his proclamation were spirit beings instead of the spirits of human beings, then this verse does not support my interpretation.  I say that, because in verse four he was just talking about dead human beings.  Thus the context clearly indicates that Jesus preached the gospel to dead human beings. 

            But there still is a big problem with interpreting this verse as a preaching of the gospel to dead human beings.  Remember that 3:18b-22 did not say what Jesus proclaimed to the spirits in prison, whoever they were.  It could have been a message of judgment or good news.  But here in 4:6 the word Peter used specifically means to preach the gospel.  He was saying that Jesus preached the gospel to the dead. 

            Now the theology of many evangelicals will not allow for that.  They believe that the eternal destiny of every human being is determined by the time of their physical death.  To suggest that Jesus preached the gospel to dead human beings implies that they could have accepted it and been saved.  That is not possible for persons who hold the theology that one’s destiny is settled by physical death.  So they must have another interpretation. 

For example, some say that Peter meant spiritually dead people rather than physically dead people.  Again the context is critical.  It will not allow that interpretation.  Jesus just mentioned the physically dead in verse five, so most scholars agree that he preached to physically dead people. 

            Some scholars who hold to that theology, but who admit that Peter meant that Jesus preached to physically dead people, say that he preached to them while they were still alive (Selwyn).  That certainly would solve the problem, but again the plain sense of Peter’s words are that the preached to dead people. 

            Peter Davids deals with the problem by admitting that Peter was saying that Jesus preached to dead people, but he insists that those dead people could not have made a positive response.  Well, again that solves the problem, but at what cost?  What would be the point in Jesus’ going to the place of the wicked dead and preaching the gospel to them, if they could not give a positive response? 

The truth is the Bible nowhere says that everyone’s eternal destiny is settled by the time of physical death.  That theology flows out of the Augustinian/Calvinistic conviction that God determined who would and would not be saved before the foundation of the world.  In that theology those whom God has chosen to be saved always hear and respond positively to the gospel before they die.  The rest either do not respond positively, or never hear the gospel, because they were not among the elect. 

The rest of us believe that we can say “No” to God.  God chooses everyone, and it is up to us to accept that election or not.  Certainly many wicked dead had their chance to accept the gospel while alive and refused.  They had their chance to be saved, and God doesn’t need to give them another chance.  But many other wicked dead never had that privilege.  They never heard the gospel.  They had no chance to be saved while physically alive.  And it is consistent with the character of God as love for Jesus to preach the gospel to those persons after their physical death to give them an opportunity to be saved. 

An element that needs to be taken into account here is the fact that Peter doesn’t say Jesus preached the gospel to all the dead.  He just says Jesus preached the gospel to the dead.  So it is consistent with the language of the passage to understand him to have preached to those dead who never had a chance to be saved. 

            Some of those scholars who believe that our eternal destiny is settle by physical death will say that any opportunity to be saved after death is giving people a second chance.  That is not true.  Many people never had any chance.  Therefore their first chance is coming after death.  It is not a second chance. 

            Next, in verse seven Peter tells us to always keep the end time in view.  And then in that context he gives a series of exhortations.  So we now turn to verses 7-11. 

Peter begins in verse seven by saying, “The end of all things is near.”  This is a consistent theme in the New Testament.  And it’s been true for every generation of Christians.  We are to live every moment with the end time in view.  And as we do so, we are to do five thingsFirst, we are to be sober minded.  The NIV says, “clear minded.”  He is talking about steadiness of mind. 

            Second, we are to discipline ourselves for the sake of our prayers.  The NIV translates it be “self-controlled so that you can pray.”  The point is we must be steady and sensible in our living so that we can be effective in prayer. 

            Third, Peter mentions the command we see so often in the New Testament, “ love one another.”  This is critical, because as James says, “love covers a multitude of sins.” 

            Fourth, “be hospitable to one another without complaining.”  Many opportunities for hospitality exist; and providing it should be something that gives us pleasure rather than our seeing it as a chore. 

            Finally, fifth, “serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”  Of course he was referring here to the gifts of the Spirit.  And he gives two broad categories as his examples rather than a list of gifts.  The first category he mentions is that of the speaking gifts such as prophecy and teaching.  “Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God.”  And the other category is that of service.  “Whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies.”  And Peter reminds us that the overall purpose is to glorify God. 

Apology for Downtime and Loss of Studies

For any who were following the studies on the Epistles of Peter, please accept our apology for the downtime and the loss of the studies that had been posted earlier.  Because of an upgrade in the server for the blog we suffered the downtime for the studies and the loss of all studies that already had been posted.  Then almost unbelievably, because of a near simultaneous problem with my personal computer, we lost the back up files.  Today I am posting the next study.  Thanks for understanding.

Blessings,  Bob Moore