The Duties of Believers

This section of First Peter deals with God’s Salvation and the duties of God’s people. We are not saved just to sit and soak, but to serve, to worship, to become more and more like Jesus.

Duties Concerning the Scripture (1 Peter 2:1, 2)
Desire pure or sincere milk – desire speaks to an intense yearning (Psalm 19:9, 10). Israel had shown no desire for the Word of God in the Old Testament, so when Jesus appeared, they viewed him in the same manner (Isaiah 53:2). The word sincere is literally unadulterated, meaning nothing is mixed with it.

Duties Concerning the Savior (1 Peter 2:3-8)

  1. He is God’s precious Rock. This stone was tried and rejected; Jesus flunked because he was not what they looked for in a Messiah. Here is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise (Matthew 16:16, 18). The word rock or stone appears five times here, and is a theme throughout the Bible:
  2. He is a smitten rock to all who will drink (Exodus 17:6, 1 Corinthians 10:4, John 4:13, 14, 7:37-39)
  3. He is the precious stone to all who have drunk (1 Peter 2:3, 7)
  4. He is the chief cornerstone to the church (Ephesians 2:20)
  5. He is the stumbling stone to the Jews at his first coming (Romans 9:32, 33, 1 Corinthians 1:23)
  6. He is the head or final stone of the temple, to the Jews at his second coming (Zechariah 4:7)
  7. He is the smashing stone cut from the mountain (Daniel 2:34)
  8. He is the crushing stone of judgment to unbelievers (Matthew 21:44)

Duties Concerning the Saints (1 Peter 2:9, 10)
To serve as priests of God – some thoughts about the priesthood:

  1. Before the Law, the head of each family was the family priest (Genesis 8:20, 26:25, 31:54)
  2. When the Law was introduced, Israel promised to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), but they violated the Law and the tribe of Levi became the priestly tribe (Exodus 13:2, 19:6, Numbers 8:16, Exodus 28:1)
  3. The church is now constituted as a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6), which is a birthright, just as every descendant of Aaron was born to the priesthood (Hebrews 5:1)
  4. The priest had access to God; the high priest coming into the Holy of Holies only once a year (Hebrews 9:7). But the veil was torn, so now all believers have access to God through Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22) and our High Priest is already there (Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:24).

To shine as beacons of light (1 Peter 2:9) calling others out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Duties Concerning the Sacrificer, he or she offers:

  1. Self or a living body (Romans 12:1, Philippians 2:17, 2 Timothy 4:6, James 1:27, 1 John 3:16)
  2. Songs or praise to God, fruit from our lips (Hebrews 13:15, Exodus 25:22)
  3. Substance or living out what we say we believe (Romans 12:13, Galatians 6:6, Titus 3:14, Hebrews 13:2, 16, 3 John 1:5-8)
  4. Service, to do good (Galatians 6:10, Hebrews 13:16)
  5. Supplication and intercession (Colossians 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:1)

Salvation is a multistage event in the life of a believer: justification is being saved from the past (all of our sin) and becoming “just as if I’d never sinned;” sanctification is the life-long process of growing in Christ, into his image (Romans 8:29) and becoming more like him in thought, word and action; and glorification, which is the ultimate and final state of being in God’s presence, standing before him without sin. We did not do anything to earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9) because Jesus paid the price so we can enter into the Father’s presence.

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Do You Want to Grow Up?

The purpose of today’s lesson is to desire spiritual growth. When have you wished, at least for a moment, that you were not an adult? What people and events has God used to move you toward maturity? Make a list or create a timeline. As much as you are able, re-enter those events, and thank God for what happened then.

The apostle Peter opens this section of his letter by insisting that his readers “grow up in your salvation.” Read 1 Peter 2:1-12. What is it that made 1 Peter 2:4 especially important to the first century Christians?

1. What characteristics of spiritual maturity do you find in this passage?
This question leads to an overview of the passage. Notice characteristics inhibiting spiritual maturity in 1 Peter 2:1. Note that our maturity begins with God; he chooses us (1 Peter 2:4). The implications of being chosen by God become more fully evident in our relationships with other believers, as described in 1 Peter 2:9-10, and are lived out in particular ways that point to an eternal future (1 Peter 2:11-12). Maybe we can rephrase the question, “What forces do you see in this passage that lead a person toward spiritual maturity?”

2. Peter speaks here of two aspects of Christian growth: individual and corporate. How might the five inner sins of 1 Peter 2:1 damage our relationships with other believers? When have you seen this kind of damage?
Don’t settle for a mere recitation of the sins listed in verse. Discuss how each one corrupts Christian relationships.

3. What does the metaphor in 1 Peter 2:2-3 suggest about how we should nurture spiritual growth?

4. How does belief or unbelief influence the way a person understands Jesus, the living Stone (1 Peter 2:4-8)? What are some of the effects of these differing points of view?
Find several phrases that represent the two opposing points of view. Discuss the differing effects of belief and unbelief. 1 Peter 2:8 raises the question “Does God destine some people to be eternally lost?”

5. What would you expect to see in a person who had imitated Jesus and become a “living stone”?

6. What reasons do the people here have to praise God (1 Peter 2:9-10)?
What is the “royal priesthood” mentioned here? The New Bible Commentary points out that throughout Old Testament history a division existed between kingly functions and priestly functions. In fact, King Saul received severe condemnation from Samuel when he attempted to combine the two roles (1 Samuel 13:5-15), but believers in Christ are both royalty and priests before God.

7. As you look more carefully at 1 Peter 2:9, think of Christians you know. What steps could you take in these Christian groups to live up to this description?

8. What inner and outer battles do you see in 1 Peter 2:11-12?
Consider both what we are together as well as what we do.

9. 1 Peter 2:11 repeats a now familiar theme in this letter, that Christians are aliens and strangers in the world. How might living up to the description of 1 Peter 2:9 cause a Christian to be alienated from the world?

10. The New Bible Commentary interprets 1 Peter 2:12, “the day [God] visits us,” as “the day God will visit the earth and search out man’s hearts in judgment.” If this were to occur in your lifetime, what evidence would you want God to find of your own spiritual growth?

11. How could today’s passage help you overcome a tendency to be a spiritual Peter Pan?
Thank God for specific forces he has brought into your life that have drawn you toward spiritual maturity. Ask for his care in further preparing you for the time when you will meet him face to face.

Going Deeper
Take a prayerful look at spiritual maturity as Peter describes it in his letter. Place this alongside several areas of your life and evaluate your progress in that direction. Where appropriate, give yourself spiritual goals, noting a date when you will look back at your notes and evaluate your progress. These questions below may help guide your thinking and praying.

  1. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander keep me from growing to spiritual maturity (1 Peter 2:1). I need to root these out of my life by …
  2. God calls me to spiritual maturity by joining me with other Christians as a “spiritual house” 1 Peter 2:5), “a royal priesthood” and “a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). I need to work on this spiritual connection with other Christians by …
  3. Christian maturity means that I am never quite at home in this world. I am an alien and a stranger (1 Peter 2:11) who wants to live in a way that causes even current non-Christians to “glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). I will express my alien status in this world by …

An adult Peter Pan is only a shadowy shape of an adult. In what ways would it be tempting to follow Peter Pan’s approach to life? What happens when a person refuses to grow up? Why might some Christians intentionally limit their spiritual growth?

How do you respond to Peter’s description of you (1 Peter 2:9)? In what dark rooms in your life has God turned on the light? How does 1 Peter 2:11 encourage you and relieve your anxiety about temptation, or make you feel defeated? What war or struggle are you facing that only Jesus can overcome?

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Called to be Different

Purpose of this lesson is to lead us to respond to God’s gift of salvation with holy imitation of Jesus.

Being a Christian shapes us, often in surprising ways. We discover God-given strengths and use them in ways we never imagined. But we also discover our flaws and learn the painful effort of overcoming those sins. God calls his people to be different: different from what they would be if they did not believe in Jesus and different from the unbelievers around them.

  1. How did you get ready for exams in school? (Kept up, Cram, Good night sleep).
  2. Who was your best coach? How did this person help prepare you and help you excel?
  3. What surprising strengths (or weaknesses) have you discovered in yourself as part of your Christian growth?
  4. Think of a Christian (living or dead) you admire. In what ways has that person practiced holy living? Pray, thanking God for his or her influence in your life.

Peter opens this section of his letter with the warning to “prepare your minds for action.” Go ahead and read 1 Peter 1:13-25.

1. What mental and physical actions should a follower of Christ pursue?

2. Peter lists several ways that followers of Jesus ought to respond to his gift of salvation. Define each of these responses more fully (1 Peter 1:13, 14, 15, 16). Can you spot the five commands?
Gird your ___________________________. Girding or preparing: meaning the ancient practice of gathering up one’s robes when needing to move in a hurry; here, it is metaphorically applied to one’s thought process. The meaning is to pull in all the loose ends of one’s thinking, by rejecting the hindrances of the world and focusing on the future grace of God (Ephesians 6:14; Colossians 3:2).
Keep ____________________ in spirit. Spiritual sober-mindedness includes the ideas of steadfastness, self-control, clarity of mind, and moral decisiveness. The sober Christian is correctly in charge of his priorities and not intoxicated with the various allurements of the world.
Fix your ___________________________ on future grace. In light of their great salvation, Christians, especially those undergoing suffering, should passionately live for the future, anticipating the consummation of their salvation at the second coming of Christ (see 1 Peter 1:7, Colossians 3:2-4). Christ’s future ministry of glorifying Christians and giving them eternal life in His presence will be the final culmination of the grace initiated at salvation (Ephesians 2:7).
Do not be ___________________________ to the former lusts. This is very similar to the Pauline command of not conforming to this world (Romans 12:2).
Be _________________ in all your behavior. What does it mean to be holy? Holiness essentially defines the Christian’s new nature and conduct in contrast with his pre-salvation lifestyle. The reason for practicing a holy manner of living is that Christians are associated with the holy God and must treat Him and His Word with respect and reverence. We therefore glorify Him best by being like Him (1 Peter 1:16, 17; Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 5:1; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 18:30; 19:2; 20:7; 21:6-8).

3. Select one of these responses above. If you were to put that response on the front burner of your priorities, what changes would you have to make in your life?

4. 1 Peter 1:15 says, “Be holy in all you do.” How might an honest attempt to be holy by God’s standards improve your relationships with people close to you? In what situations might it make you more like a stranger (1 Peter 1:17)?

5. Why does Peter tell us that we ought to live in “reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17)? Why would Peter tell these persecuted believers that God is their judge and they should live in fear? Holy living is motivated by a God-fearing faith that does not presume upon the redemption that was purchased at so great a cost (1 Peter 1:18, 19).

6. What events from the past would help the recipients of Peter’s letter to appreciate God’s concern for them (1 Peter 1:18-21)? Examine the following past events noted:
“You were redeemed” (1 Peter 1:18) – meaning to buy back someone from bondage by the payment of a price; to set free by paying a ransom. “Redemption” was a technical term for money paid to buy back a prisoner of war. Here it is used of the price paid to buy the freedom of one in the bondage of sin and under the curse of the law (eternal death, Galatians 3:13). The price paid to a holy God was the shed blood of His own Son (Exodus 12:1-13; 15:13; Psalm 78:35; Acts 20:28; Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4, 5; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:11-17).
“The empty way of life [was] handed down to you” (1 Peter 1:18) – Meaning the old Law system was empty; also we recognize that the old life we used to live was empty.
“He was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) – Meaning in eternity past, before Adam and Eve sinned, God planned the redemption of sinners through Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 2 Timothy 1:9).
He “was revealed” (1 Peter 1:20) – Meaning at the end of the law, He appeared from heaven to rescue us from our former way of life. Peter wants to impress us even more deeply with the importance of making a clean break with the world system from which Christ died to deliver us. We are in the world but not of it. We must not isolate ourselves from unbelievers, but rather carry the gospel to them. Yet in our dealings and relationships with them, we must never share in or condone their sins. We are to show by our lives that we are children of God. The moment we become like the world, our testimony is weakened. There is no incentive for lost people to be converted if they cannot see a difference, a change for the better in our lives.
“You became believers in God” (1 Peter 1:21) – Meaning, as W. T. P. Wolston said: “It is not by creation nor providence nor law that man knows God, but by Christ.”
“God … raised him from the dead and glorified him” (1 Peter 1:21) – Meaning God, through the ascension, returned Christ to the glory that He had with Him before the world began (Luke 24:51-53; John 17:4, 5; Acts 1:9-11; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:9).
Each of these events from the past had a bearing on the current condition of those who received Peter’s letter.

7. What is a good test to see if one really has a change of heart (1 Peter 1:22)? How could the conditions that Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:21-25 promote sincere love among Christians?
O_________________ to the truth.
P_________________ of the soul.
S____________ and F_____________ love for one another.
B_________________, imperishable.

8. In speaking of a Christian’s relationships, Peter drew a contrast between “love for your brothers” and being “strangers in the world” (1 Peter 1:1, 17, 22). How is loving deeply and actively possible? When have you felt sheltered by a family kind of love among believers?

9. What contrasts do you see in 1 Peter 1:21-25 between what is temporary and what is enduring?
Temporary                                           Enduring
all people (1 Peter 1:24)                     new birth (1 Peter 1:23)
flowers (1 Peter 1:24)                         Word of God (1 Peter 1:23, 25)
grass (1 Peter 1:24)
glory of men (1 Peter 1:24)

10. Peter links the Word of God with salvation and new birth (Compare 1 Peter 1:10, 12, 23, 25). What do you think Peter means when he says that this Word is “enduring” and “stands forever?”
Try to understand the flow of Peter’s reasoning. These verses trace God’s redeeming work from the age of the prophets who searched for information about Christ’s coming (but did not themselves experience it). They “served” the believers of Peter’s era with their preparation. It was part of the “imperishable seed” presented to the new Christian church (the “word” that Peter preached).

11. The readers of Peter’s letter learned of God’s gift of salvation because it was preached to them. How have you learned about it?

12. If you were trying to convey to someone else the value of new birth in your life, what would you want that person to know?

13. Are you more like a pilgrim, an explorer or a land owner on this earth?

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Elements of Trust

I enjoy reading blogs on a variety of topics, and I found some information on leadership worth passing on (from George Ambler). In the May edition of the Ignite! Newsletter published by The Ken Blanchard Companies (Blanchard is the One Minute Manager and Lead Like Jesus guy) is an interesting article on trust. The article discuses the ABCD Trust Model from Cynthia Olmstead, founder and president of TrustWorks Group, Inc. which highlights the following four elements of trust:

  1. Able: demonstrates competence, expertise, experience, and capability in getting the desired results accomplished.
  2. Believable: walks the talk of a core set of values, demonstrates honesty, and uses fair, equitable practices.
  3. Connected: interacts with staff, communicates and shares relevant information, provides praise, and gives recognition.
  4. Dependable: is accountable, takes responsibility for own actions, and consistently follows up.

We are well aware that trust is the foundation of all effective leadership, however trust does not just happen. It’s something that a leader must consciously and constantly develop. When it comes to developing trust, actions matter! Cynthia Olmstead goes on to explain that “…people need to see trust in action more that they need to hear about it.” It’s only as leader’s act in a trustworthy manner, by example that trust is developed.

The Bible has plenty to say about trust, too:

  1. Many began to trust in Jesus (John 2:23 NLT)
  2. Put your trust in the light while there’s time (John 12:36 NLT)
  3. Trust in God… trust also in Christ (John 14:1 NLT)
  4. Anyone who trusts in him will not be disgraced (Romans 9:33, 10:11 NLT)
  5. Trust in God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:5 NLT)
  6. God trusted Timothy and appointed him for service (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT)
  7. Trust in God, not the world (1 Timothy 6:17 NLT)
  8. We don’t see yet still trust (1 Peter 1:8 NLT)
  9. The reward for trusting is our salvation (1 Peter 1:9 NLT)
  10. Trust your lives to the God who created you (1 Peter 4:19 NLT) because he will never fail you

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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?