Introduction to First Peter

We are finishing our study of the life of Peter, and decided to move right into the writings of Peter. First Peter is a wonderful book of hope for the hurting. Get the First Peter Chart. Here are a few facts about the book:

  1. Of the 12 original disciples, only three where inspired by the Spirit to write Scripture (Matthew, John and Peter).
  2. In Peter’s letters, he takes seriously the last command of Jesus to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17).
  3. Peter writes a lot about hope (1 Peter 1:3, 13, 21, 3:15) , whereas Paul writes about faith and John writes about love (Faith, hope and love – 1 Corinthians 13:13).
  4. A key theme in Peter’s writings is suffering (word used sixteen times) and grace (used eight times).
  5. The church appears to be affected by worldliness in the pew (1 Peter 2:11) and materialism in the pulpit (1 Peter 5:1, 2, 3).

Peter develops the doctrine of Christ in a remarkable way:

  1. Incarnation (1 Peter 1:20)
  2. Names of Christ: Spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:19), Chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6) in relation to the Scripture, Precious Stone (1 Peter 2:7) in relation to the believer, Stumbling Stone (1 Peter 2:8) in relation to unbelievers, Bishop of our Souls (1 Peter 2:25), Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
  3. Sinless Life (1 Peter 1:19, 2:22)
  4. Suffering and Death (1 Peter 1:11, 2:23, 24, 3:18, 4:1, 13, 5:1)
  5. Resurrection (1 Peter 3:21, 22)
  6. Ascension (1 Peter 3:22)
  7. Presence at the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22)
  8. Second Coming (1 Peter 1:13, 17, 4:13, 5:1, 4)

Peter describes believers in a remarkable way:

  1. Obedient Children (1 Peter 1:14)
  2. Newborn Babes (1 Peter 2:2)
  3. Living Stones (1 Peter 2:5)
  4. Holy Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  5. Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  6. Holy Nation (1 Peter 2:9)
  7. Peculiar People (1 Peter 2:9)
  8. Strangers and Pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11)
  9. Christians (1 Peter 4:16)
  10. The Righteous (1 Peter 4:18)
  11. The Elect of God (1 Peter 1:2)
  12. The People of God (1 Peter 2:10)
  13. The Oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11)
  14. The Flock of God (1 Peter 5:2)

It is considered that Mark’s gospel reflects the teachings of Peter.

  1. Peter and John are the only NT writers who refer to Jesus as a lamb (John 1:29, 36, Revelation 5:6, 1 Peter 1:19).
  2. Peter was familiar with Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:15, 16).
  3. There is a similarity of teaching and wording between 1 Peter and Ephesians.
    Ephesians 1:3 and 1 Peter 1:3
    Ephesians 3:5, 10 and 1 Peter 1:12
    Ephesians 3:6, 21 and 1 Peter 4:11
    Ephesians 3:8 and 1 Peter 1:8
    Ephesians 4:2 and 1 Peter 3:9
    Ephesians 4:7, 11 and 1 Peter 4:10
    Ephesians 4:13, 15 and 1 Peter 2:2

Next we will look at being strangers in this world…

[print_link] [email_link]

Christianity and Conflict

The Jews were by law separatists. You are likely familiar with many passages of Scripture where Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9) or were forbidden to enter the house of a Gentile (Matthew 8:8, John 18:28) so these events in the life of Peter are best understood when we understand the culture of Peter’s day. There was sometimes a volatile religious mix that required strong leaders like Peter and Paul to break down barriers. God blessed them with strength, faith, revelation, and lots of grace–because sorting out the truth among so many competing beliefs would usually lead to some mistakes and misjudgments. Peter, well familiar with all sorts of social missteps, would play a key role.

A Course Correction: Acts 10:1-11:18 (Primarily Acts 10:1-19, 44-48)
Peter will later be known as the apostle to the Jews, while Paul will become famous as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7). But it’s through Peter that God first chooses to swing open the door of salvation to the Gentiles. This vision on a rooftop is a radical departure for the early church and gives it a straight path to reaching Greeks and Romans with the gospel.

Cornelius was a man of considerable means, power, and authority. As a centurion, he was in charge of a fighting force of one hundred Roman soldiers. He was also what the Jews call a God-fearer, a Gentile who had accepted the Jewish God and faith but stopped short of adopting the practices, like circumcision and dietary laws, necessary to become an authentic Jew.

God gave Cornelius and Peter complementary visions. He told Cornelius to send men to bring Peter to his house, and he showed Peter that keeping one’s distance from Gentiles for dietary and other reasons is no longer necessary. Salvation is for the Gentiles too, and the church will generate a few gatherings where Jews and Gentiles fellowship together, work alongside each other, and eat together. They can’t do this while thinking a fellow believer is unclean. No walls should separate Jews and Gentiles, slave or free, male or female. The body of Christ should be a united whole.

At Cornelius’s house, Peter explained the gospel, and as he was speaking, the Spirit fell on everyone there. I see this as evidence that God is making no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and the only reasonable response is praise.

  1. How would you respond if God told you to do something that would violate one of your long-held personal values?
  2. If the Spirit dramatically manifested himself among people who had never been to church or read the Bible, would you be more likely to feel jealous or praise God? Why?

A Council Convened: Acts 15:1-35 (Primarily Acts 15:4-21)
Some Pharisees who had become Christians were finding the Gentile mission very difficult to accept. It was clear in the Law that circumcision was to be a sign God’s people (Exodus 12:48-49; Leviticus 12:3). Actually, all of the laws of God were to be a sign that set his people apart from the rest of the world. It isn’t possible for the Spirit to contradict himself, so, Gentiles who accept the Jewish Messiah should be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses.

But salvation is by grace through faith alone, and neither circumcision nor any other work is a prerequisite of God’s grace, which was hard for the Jews to understand. So a council of church leaders convened in Jerusalem to settle the issue. Jew and Gentile believers, apostles, and elders offered their views. And then after much discussion, Peter stood up and laid out his simple, evidence-based argument: “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9). In other words, if the Spirit isn’t keeping his distance from uncircumcised Gentiles, why should we?

In the end, James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, spoke up declaring new believers need not become Jewish before they come to Christ. He then added that the council strongly urges Gentiles to reject the rituals of paganism, like eating meat sacrificed to idols and rites of sexual immorality (Acts 15:29). Basically, the Holy Spirit will conform Gentile believers into the image of Christ and the character of God. This new freedom is not a license to sin, but the liberty to believe, worship and be filled with the Holy Spirit apart from Jewish rites becomes official church policy.

  1. How difficult do you think it was for Peter to advocate for Gentiles among his Jewish brothers?
  2. How difficult do you think it might have been for him to endorse the ministry of Paul, who was once an enemy of the disciples?
  3. How well do you think Christians today affirm ministries that employ unfamiliar methods? Why?

A Confrontation Commences: Galatians 2:1-21 (Primarily Galatians 2:11-21)
Peter’s conviction on the issue of accepting Gentile believers had wavered since the Jerusalem council. He had been accepting invitations to dine with Greek friends in Antioch, but when some disciples of James come to visit, he began to distance himself from the Gentile believers in order to appease the Jewish believers (Galatians 2:12).

The change in Peter’s behavior was noticeable; he had suddenly allowed the pressure of Jewish guests to intimidate him. Even Barnabas, Paul’s companion, joined in this “hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:13). Since it had become a public issue, Paul confronted Peter publicly. There is no evidence in the New Testament that Peter ever rejected the criticism. I suppose in his maturity, he had become correctable.

  1. How do we know where to draw the line between the absolutes of our faith and the freedom we’re given in Christ?
  2. When is it right to confront others who may be abusing their freedom in Christ?
  3. Paul was adamant that Peter shouldn’t avoid eating with Gentiles just to appease Jewish believers. However, he also taught that we shouldn’t use our freedom to offend others (Romans 14:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33). Why do you think Paul was less concerned about offending strict Jewish Christians in this particular case?

Think About It:
Suppose you grew up in a very conservative Christian area that discouraged all forms of interaction with the secular world except the most unavoidable. But new people within your community had recently begun preaching a new interpretation of the group’s principles, saying that the only way to impact the world is to mix and mingle with it (to get involved in secular organizations and to try to understand secular culture, including its media and entertainment and ideologies). Needless to say, there’s quite a conflict between the traditional faction and the contemporary one. Your concept of holiness is being stretched beyond your comfort level.

  1. Why is change, especially in matters of faith, so controversial and contested?
  2. How is it possible to know when a new direction is initiated by God and when it isn’t?
  3. How do we balance our faithfulness to long-held values with our willingness to be moved by God’s Spirit?
  4. What was Paul’s answer to this tension between old and new perspectives? What was Peter’s?

We Are Iron Men

People love superheroes, and this season brings back a long awaited sequel, Iron Man 2. This is easily one of the most anticipated sequels of all time, and Tony Stark is back and badder than ever.

Before becoming Iron Man, millionaire playboy/inventor Tony Stark simply cruised casinos, consumed alcohol and amassed sexual conquests as wildly as James Bond. Unlike 007, however, he didn’t stop warlords; he armed them. That is until a missile demonstration ended with Stark’s capture by a murderous Middle Eastern dissident who ordered him to build a weapon of mass destruction. He escaped by using the materials to make tricked-out battle armor. In the process, Stark had the Marvel Comics equivalent of a Damascus Road experience. He repented of his past and pledged to help the very people he’d been hurting, aided by a novel power source and high-tech exoskeleton that conforms to his body Transformers-style.

Something else about Iron Man’s unique origin story makes it special: No radioactive spider bite. No exposure to gamma rays. Stark wasn’t accidentally endowed with new skills. Rather, his heroic journey mirrors an arrogant sinner coming to grips with his own depravity, choosing to change and battle the forces of darkness.

The movie is full of cool gadgets, sarcastic humor, mega-explosions and special effects everywhere. I would just about give my right arm to suit up and dominate evil dudes in Iron Man fashion.

Obviously that is not going to happen, but there is an armored suit available to Christians that in many ways provides the same protection and weaponry, one that lights up the spiritual world like Stark in a village full of terrorists. Here is the description of the conflict we face:

    1. Put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11)
    2. Defending against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:11)
    3. The real struggle is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12)

      The war that Paul describes here is not against earthly terrorists, communists, or anything that is flesh and blood. This conflict is in the spiritual realm – and it is not for the weak or the wimpy. Every day the unseen forces of Satan and his army are arrayed against you. They are firing off the missiles of deception, discouragement, temptation, and opposition, so you’ll give up the battle and your calling.

      We need to make sure that we are properly fitted with this suit from the closet of your soul, so let me walk through the steps that Paul gave us:

      1. First, put on the belt of truth – which means speaking/ living truthfully and with integrity (Ephesians 6:12).
      2. Next, position the breastplate of righteousness – which is living in obedience to God’s will and his Word because He has completely forgiven you (Ephesians 6:14).
      3. Don’t forget the boots of readiness – which is a willingness to share the gospel message with anyone, anywhere, anytime (Ephesians 6:15).
      4. Raise up the shield of faith – which is hiding behind the promises of God when Satan sends a onslaught of lies and temptations your way (Ephesians 6:16).
      5. Protect your mind with the helmet of salvation – which is a constant remembrance that the penalty and power of sin is broken in your life, so don’t believe the negative messages from the devil that you are guilty and worthless (Ephesians 6:17).
      6. Finally, be sure and draw the sword of the Spirit – which is God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17).
      7. Along with prayer (Ephesians 6:18), this is your offensive weapon to strike the heart of the enemy with incredible force. So powerful in fact, that this is the result:

      We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

      Picture an army of believers who are protected with the very armor of God and armed with His living Word. God uses this mighty force to stop spiritual terrorism and start a revolution for His cause – making disciples who make disciples!

      We are Men of Steel, and we can choose to be Iron Men, choosing to leave the old life behind, and make ourselves battle-ready for the sake of God’s kingdom. Suit up and make a difference.

      [print_link] [email_link]

      Inspiration, Faith & Integrity

      My Sunday morning Bible study is taking a fresh look at Peter and how his life often mirrors our own at various times in life. This week we are looking at the power of God that filled Peter’s life, and how that made a difference.

      Pilate’s wife warned him not to mess with Jesus (Matthew 27:19). The guards who stood at the tomb didn’t really know what happened that night (Matthew 28:11-15) but were paid to give false testimony. Right at seven weeks after these amazing events, the next Jewish feast had arrived. We find the disciples gathered in an upper room praying. They saw Jesus ascend to heaven but had not yet received what Jesus had promised, the Spirit, power, and they did not even know what to look for. Would they even recognize it when it came?

      Inspired Words: Acts 2:1-40 (primarily Acts 2:1-14)
      On the streets below the room where the believers are gathered, Jerusalem is busy. Jewish pilgrims from all over the world have come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. The believers have been in prayer (Acts 1:14), as instructed by Jesus, and waiting to see what he promised (Acts 1:8). Suddenly, a roaring wind fills the house and tongues of fire fall on each person. The visitation is unmistakable, and the promised power has arrived.

      Peter is filled with words to explain the amazing event. A miracle occurs as visitors in town for the feast hear the good news about Jesus in their native tongue (Acts 2:11). They are touched by the message and confused by the messengers (Acts 2:12-13). Then Peter takes the lead. He stands up and preaches the world’s first post-ascension sermon (Acts 2:14). He steps into the role he will fill for the rest of his life: a vocal leader of the Jesus movement.

      1. Peter’s regrets and failures are nowhere evident in Acts 2. It’s as though they never happened. He has “moved on” and gotten busy doing what God called him to do. Is anything from your past hindering your ability to be completely available to God?
      2. If so, how do you think God would want you to deal with it? Why is it so hard sometimes to move on?

      Daring Faith: Acts 3:1-26 (primarily Acts 3:1-10)
      Peter and John encounter a familiar scene on their way to the temple to pray. A crippled man is being carried to the gate so he can beg for alms from people (Acts 3:2). Today is different than most other days; the disciples are now filled with boldness in their faith, like they never experienced while Jesus walked in the flesh. They look the man in the eyes and offer him something far better than silver or gold. Peter grabs his hand, pulls him to his feet before seeing any evidence of healing, and tells him to walk (Acts 3:7). Only then do the man’s ankles and legs grow strong. He walks, jumps, and praises God vocally and visibly.

      It’s a very public miracle. People who have know this man for years are amazed at the sight. They are filled with wonder and awe, and Peter sees another opportunity. Again, he begins to preach.

      1. People all around you are hurting physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. How much of your reputation or your dignity would you be willing to risk to help them?
      2. How much faith do you have that your intervention can change their lives?
      3. Peter seized an opportunity to display the glory of Jesus. How diligently do you look for those kinds of opportunities?
      4. What is one act of faith you can do this week to help someone who’s hurting?

      Courageous Leadership: Acts 5:1-10
      Many believers are selling their possessions, pooling their resources, and sharing with each other so that no one would have any needs. It’s a remarkable reflection of the love of Christ in their lives. Though the generosity isn’t required of anyone, it’s a natural response to the Spirit’s presence.

      But there are always those who try to see how little they can get by with. In this case, it’s a married couple named Ananias and Sapphira who boast greater generosity than they actually have. They secretly keep a portion of a land sale for themselves (Acts 5:1-2).

      But there are no secrets with the Holy Spirit, and there is no room for a lack of integrity. The couple has lied to God, to Peter and the other leaders, and to the fellowship of believers (Acts 5:4). Unlike many later church leaders who would ignore the deception as a personal issue, Peter confronts the couple. When he bluntly exposes Ananias’ lie, the deceiver falls down dead (Acts 5:5). Later, his wife does the same when she is confronted (Acts 5:10). In these first days of the new church, integrity seems to be a vital issue both to the Spirit and to Peter.

      1. To what degree do you think the church today is known for its integrity?
      2. Do you think the Spirit does (or will) have as harsh a response to deception as he did with Ananias and Sapphira? Why or why not?
      3. How meticulous are you about your own integrity?
      4. Do you present yourself as more generous, loving, or honest than you really are? If so, why?

      Teaching Values to Our Kids

      Did you know that parents are the most valuable tool when it comes to teaching values to children? I used to think that the way you taught values was to sit your kids down and talk to them about values. But I was wrong. Our children constantly see us living out our values and they learn their values from us whether we want them to or not!

      As missionaries in Zambia, Kim, Stephen and I took a trip to Harare, Zimbabwe for a little holiday. It used to be a great place to enjoy a nicer restaurant, catch a movie, visit a game park, stuff like that. It was good to get away together as a family. One day we saw that a sequel to a movie we enjoyed in the States came to a downtown theatre. It was Disney’s White Fang 2, and we saw the rating was PG-13, for some unreasonable African reason. In a moment of weakness and selfishness, we lied about Stephen’s age (he was 11 at the time). Our rationalization was that it was a Disney film and we knew better. You know what? I taught more about values in that single action than in all of our father-son chats through the years. I grieved the situation later that day, and even today called Stephen to apologize for that poor example of integrity.

      As parents we must get our own values right and then live by those values, because our children will quickly learn our values in action. How does it happen? They learn the value of prayer when they see you kneeling in prayer instead of coming apart at the seams when you face a crisis. They learn the value of fidelity when they see their parents remain faithful to each other even in tough times. They learn the value of honesty by seeing their parents remain honest even in the tough times. Parents are the tools of God to teach values to children. So live wisely – you’re being watched!

      [print_link]