Tuesday, January 13, 2015

1 Peter 1:22-2:10

Peter (and the New Testament in general) often go from what is true, to what our obligations are.  Even when what is true about believers turns out to be things "into which angels long to look" (1:12), Peter goes on to teach what we should be doing (1:13ff), all the while couching it not just in what is already true, but what will be true (1:13).

In this passage (1:22ff.), Peter is going further, based on a marker along the way of doing what we should be doing.  He says "you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren .... (1:22).  Since you've done A for B, go ahead and do B! ... "fervently love one another from the heart."  It certainly would make sense to go on.  The added reason he gives for doing this, 1:23-25, doesn't sound like an added reason.  Perhaps, unless you've been in a ministry.

All that training about what is true often goes into someone in the ministry.  And all kinds of purification of soul.  Often, the train slows down at that point, or stops.  What use is my theology here or now?  My fightings with self and sin?  Peter gives something of an answer here.

1.  Something has happened to you.  The past is not a collection of your stuff alone.  Everything talked about in 1:23 is something that has happened to you, and comes to you from the world of what is "living and abiding," not the things in 1:24, which go through the cycle of death.  So, behind your stuff, is what was done to you, and it is from what is "living and abiding."

2.  The past can't be changed.  Today's love for the brethren isn't necessarily the same as tomorrow's.  But "the word which was preached to you" endures forever, and it was already preached to you.  It's too late! Love one another from the heart, because it's too late to do anything about the foundation for it, which has already happened!

Going on to 1 Peter 2, Peter is continuing this argument about why to go forward.

3.  In 2:1-3 the argument is stated conclusion-first.  But first, let's mention a possible background assumption of the writer about what he could be addressing in his readers.  What often happens among Christian workers, and Christians in general?  They pause, because they wish that things were the case over here, over there.  Peter is taking this into his sights, and about to tell them ... wish for ... this!  But not out of the clear blue sky, because those who are tired often need something to get them to wish for this.  They know what to wish for, but from what starting point to do so, they don't see.

"Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word."  So it's back to the foundation of 1:23, that they have been born of an "imperishable."  Back to a factual foundation outside of us.

Peter is bringing them to two things they may have not kept in mind.  To God, they're not old and gray, grizzled, harried, old troupers that have been around the block umpteen times.  They're newborns!  So, like newborns, they get to have the basics!  Lots of experienced people feel guilty for wanting the basics!  Simple things in the Bible, speaking theologically.  Or physically, like sleep!  Just because you're an "older" Christian, doesn't mean you can't be like a newborn babe right now! Being like a newborn babe is correct to be.

The second thing is that you get to tend to yourself too.  The common refrain nowadays, that "it's not about me," is not a universal.  Peter says it's OK, to do something for you yourself, "that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (2:2).  It's OK for a big tree to grow.

But why should I do the growth routine?  Because God is growing you already, simultaneously as you are even considering it!  "You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood ..." (2:5).

The words give a twin picture of you.  One picture is a person inside a house.  The other picture is the house, which is being built.  You are similtaneously the one in the house, AND the house being built up!  Look, the third floor just went up!  Wait till you see the next one, and the goal of this amazing spiritual house!  So, the architect is waiting to talk to you! He, Christ, also has that quality about Him: He is both "a living stone" and the Person "rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God" (2:4).

Finally, there may be a weariness about having to invent things that will work.  The Christian is, luckily ( ;) ), often called to do things without knowing that they will work, or how!  Have you ever thought about the OT priesthood that way?  All that work, why?  What good was it?  How did it get it done?  They had no idea, they were just told that God wanted it done that way.  Priesthood!  Freedom from having to know why everything works!

Do we know what the "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (2:5) will be?  No.  W'ere gonna be like priests have always been!

But we won't be disappointed, and "those who disbelieve" (2:7) will be appointed to a stumbling by the same stone.  It is an instance of something that goes on apart from us.  The work of the stone is both toward us, and toward those who disbelieve, but it is the work of the stone.  That's how Peter ends this section, by teaching about how the things that are true of us are because of what has been done to us: you "have received mercy" though previously you hadn't.  "You are the people of God,"  but once were "not a people."  Someone could wonder whether it's reversible, but Peter says that the direction it took, had a purpose, "so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (2:9).  How does that help?  Well, let's think about that for a second.  Was the reason you became the second, from the first, in order to get something excellent out of you?  No, the very reason you became the second, from being the first, was a purpose connected with the excellence of God who did this to you.  As stated here, God didn't do it, to gain some excellence from you, but, as Peter describes it, actions regarding His excellence would occur.   Even in football, the plays are done, in order to bring glory to the game, not the game done, in order to bring glory to the plays. Peter says those who called, are called in order to proclaim the excellence of "Him who has called you."  So of course, in that case, it is Multiple Excellence.  "Excellencies." 

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