God’s Grace & Salvation, part 1

Peter begins this epistle with a practical doxology, that is, a word of praise which encompasses the present state of his readers (and himself) in the midst of affliction in the world. Though he and his readers are experience fiery trials, God is blessed for His power, salvation, & mercy. Further, this is the culmination of the eternal plan of God, the prediction of prophets & the curiosity of angels.

Living Hope – Born Out of Grace (1 Peter 1.3-12)

By God’s grace these Christians have been born again to a living hope, viz. the salvation of their souls through faith.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Blessed…Jesus Christ: This is verbatim the same as Paul in Ephesians (1.3) & 2 Corinthians (1.3). In the NT, the word “blessed” is used only of God; He alone is worthy to be blessed. People are blessed when they receive His blessings. The 1st person of the Godhead is God of the man Jesus Christ (see John 20.17, “my God”) and Father of God the Son. As the spring from which flows the fountain of “great mercy” & “salvation” (5, 9, 10) He is worthy of praise.

According to His great mercy: In His kindness He does not give us what our sin deserves.

He has caused us to be born again: A single word in the Greek. We were dead because of sin. Through the new birth we were given new life. This is the genesis of salvation. At some point in the past (aorist tense), we were born again. By the new birth God becomes the Father of all Christians.

To [a] living hope…from the dead: Our hope is rooted in the objective fact of history which is the resurrection of Jesus. Thus hope is the confident expectation of life after this life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so Christians are raised from spiritual death to eternal life.  In a single phrase Peter unites the beginning of our salvation (born again) with the consummation of our salvation (living hope). In fact, Christians are born again into (Gk eis) living hope.

How do we react when we face persecution & pressure from the world? When we face earthly stress & distress do we open our mouths in praise? Do we praise Him from our hearts? Do we contemplate His majesty & wisdom as a merciful God? Peter (and all of Scripture) shows us a better way. Contemplate the salvific acts and mercy of the blessed God, sing His glory and majesty, magnify Him lest we shrink under the weight of pressure.

4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

To an inheritance…kept in heaven for you: Here is the Christian’s hope—inheritance in heaven. The inheritance is eternal blessedness with God & Christ in heaven. It is 1) not subject to death or decay, 2) unsoiled & free from impurity, and 3) is pristine in brilliance, like a flower that never wilts. When Peter says it is kept (perf. pass.) or “reserved” (NASB) he is saying that God stored up this inheritance for saints and it continues to be there in heaven ready for us.

Many commentators draw a distinction between the Old Covenant inheritance (the Promised Land) and the New Covenant. Consider that the old inheritance was taken from the people of Israel for their many & various corruptions. But even while it was theirs it produced rewards that faded and decayed, defiled by sin. But now the new inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven.” So vastly superior is the New Covenant inheritance.

They do it more at nicer restaurants (the kind of restaurants I tend to avoid) where you call ahead and reserve a table. Let’s say you did that before you came to service tonight: you’ve got a table reserved at the Branding Iron for some time after service. They reserved that table as soon as you called, maybe even put a little placard on the table that says “Reserved.” And they are keeping it reserved until you show up at the appointed time. It’s yours. So God has done for the Christian. You have a reservation in heaven made when you were born again. And your Father through the Son and in the Spirit are keeping it just “for you.” It’s yours!

5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Who by…through faith: God’s power is more than sufficient for anything, including creation, miracles, resurrection, etc. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer 32.17). Christians are those being guarded (perf. pass.) by God’s power. This was a military term denoting the protection of a city from hostile invasion. So God protects us from a hostile onslaught from the world, the devil, & sin. We cooperate with this protection through faith, viz. continuing to trust in God.

For a salvation…the last time: When the last page of this world’s history is written and the veil of this physical world is pulled back & gives way to the spiritual reality is the last time. Then will our salvation be finally & fully revealed or uncovered to be enjoyed by the saints of God forever. When Peter wrote, this salvation was ready, right at the point of being revealed.

Some might object that a salvation “kept” or “reserved” for some future time is of no use in the here & now. Peter in the very same breath as he describes the reserved inheritance points us right back to the here & now – God is guarding us. We are not calmly secure in heaven, but we are mightily guarded by God’s power. The perfect tense indicates that we are continually guarded: when we were born into the kingdom of God, the protection began and it continues to this day so long as we cooperate with God “through faith.” “Faith is the instrument by means of which we grasp the Divine strength, so that it is made perfect in our weakness” (Caffin 5).

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

In this you rejoice: In anticipation of the revelation of final salvation & reception of the hope. Verses 3-5 are the basis of these Christians’ joy. The term used for rejoice (Gk agalliao) denotes a deep, spiritual joy stemming from the mighty acts of God (cf. Luke 1.47; Acts 16.34).

Though now…various trials: Joy in the midst of suffering is of course a thoroughly Christian theme (see James 1.2ff). Peter has pointed these Christians ahead to “the last time” but now these Christians have been grieved and pressed by various trials. Though unspecified in this epistle, no doubt the state-sanctioned empire-wide persecution of Nero is in view. That these trials are “fiery” (4.12) might hint at the brutal practices of Nero. If necessary seems to be Peter’s way of saying “Since this is God’s will.”

7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So that…your faith: Here is what should be the product of trials for Christians—genuine faith. Tested genuineness is from a single word which had ties to metal working. So the faith of these Christians is verified in the crucible of trials, the furnace of fiery trials.

More precious…by fire: Gold under fire is separated from all impurities, they are burned away and only gold remains. So faith is refined in the furnace of trial & the process to arrive there is more valuable than testing gold in the crucible.

May be found…Jesus Christ: Genuine faith should result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus comes back. Praise from God (“Well done…”), glory which is Christ’s from before the world, & honor bestowed upon us in the crown of righteousness.

While many see the contrast as being between faith & gold and while that contrast is valid, Peter is ultimately contrasting the process of testing genuine faith with the refining of gold by fire. To remove all the dross and impurities from gold so that all you have is gold is impressive. However, the more momentous feat is the testing of faith by trials and coming through with deeper character, looking more like Christ. Just as impurities are removed from gold by fire, so fiery trials remove from the Christian such impurities as pride, self-reliance, gratification of the flesh. Add to this that gold “is perishable” (NASB) because one day everything will be burned up at the end, but faith abides along with hope & love.

In the span of three verses Peter has mentioned the final judgment twice: “the last time” (v.5) and “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is a firm reminder to Christians that we live eschatologically, ever looking forward to and living in light of that day of days when He who rolled everything out will roll it all back up. Therefore, we live life which praises God for His great mercy and wonderful salvation; we honor Him with our lives and walk worthily; we are changed from degree of glory to another degree day-by-day as we live for Him. If we would see & receive praise, honor, & glory we must live praise, honor, & glory.

8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Though…you love Him: Unlike Peter who was a witness of Christ’s sufferings (5.1) & one of the “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pt 1.16), these Christians in Asia Minor have not seen (aorist) at any point in the past Jesus. Yet they have a continual & progressive love (present) for Christ.

Though…you believe in Him: Presently Jesus is at the right hand in the unseen heavenly realms & is beyond physical vision. Yet these Christians have faith (present) in Christ. Cf. Jn 20.29.

I wonder if Peter had his mind on his face-to-face reinstatement with Jesus as recorded in John’s gospel. Peter had seen Him, but all he could muster was “Phileo you.” I have a strong affection for you. But Jesus had asked “Agapas me.” These Christians in Asia have never had that face-to-face meeting & yet they answer the unspoken question “Agapas Jesus?” with an emphatic “YES!” We have never seen Jesus. But by faith the question comes ringing from our Lord’s lips down the pathway of years: “Do you love me?” “Agapas me?” Only you can answer this question in your heart of hearts.

In a similar way, we do not presently see Jesus physically. Yet our total trust is in Him. We must have a continual faith which deepens as the years go by.

Rejoice…with glory: Because of their faith in & love for Christ they have a joy which is beyond words (inexpressible) and containing the glory of heaven (filled with glory).

“Filled with glory” is from a single word in the original which is a perfect passive participle. That is we do not add glory or bring any glory to it; it is bestowed upon us (passive). But more interesting this glory, being outside ourselves, is from God and therefore has been in existence long before we come on the scene (perfect). Perhaps an illustration: when Moses came down from the mountain, having been in the presence of God, “his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Ex 34.29). Paul tells us Moses was reflecting the glory of God (2 Cor 3.7ff). That glory came from being in God’s glorious presence. So joy which is “filled with glory” is joy that is infused with that heavenly glory and continues to possess that glory (perfect). “It is the joy of heaven before heaven, experienced now in fellowship with the unseen Christ” (Grudem 66).

9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Obtaining…your souls: As Christians continue to grow in love, faith, & joy, they are obtaining (present) the goal of faith, their salvation. In Peter, soul stands for the whole person (cf. 3.20).

Daily continuing in love, faith, & joy will produce the marvelous blessing of growth & maturity as Christians. This is the progressive nature of “obtaining the outcome of your faith.” While “the salvation of your souls” anticipates what is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (v.5), there is the present reality & everyday experience of Christian growth in the here & now as well.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,

Concerning this salvation: Both what we enjoy in the present & what will be “revealed”…

The prophets…inquired carefully:  Cf. Mt 13.17. The prophets spoke about the grace for (eis) us. They had some real knowledge of it but it was incomplete & they longed to know more. So they exerted considerable effort to search & seek information concerning grace & salvation.

“That salvation was so magnificent a prospect that it concentrated upon itself the rapt attention and deepest interest of those to whom the promise was revealed.” They were like miners mining for treasure: they would uncover a gem, but only when refined by the Incarnation did it true beauty shine.

Peter is working to help his audience realize just how great their salvation is in Christ and to get them to better appreciate the grace of God. He does this by focusing on two groups which never tasted the sweet grace of God as we have under the New Covenant: prophets & angels. Peter tells his readers (and us by extension) that the grace by which we are saved was the study of seers for centuries & is the abstraction of angels for eons. How dare us be apathetic concerning the salvation of our souls! Do we not realize the exceeding glory & grandeur of the joy of our salvation? Have our hearts grown cold & dull? Should we not instead fix our attention on the sufferings of Christ just as the prophets before us did? Should we not instead give our undivided concentration to the glories of His resurrection & ascension just as the angels do? The prophets searched & inquired with prayer & fasting; how much more should we imitate their example, searching the Scriptures, meditating upon them, watching unto prayer.

11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

Inquiring…was indicating: Though Peter does not specify what they inquired, the word used here is also used by Jesus in reference to Scripture (Jn 5.39). So the prophets searched their & whatever other writings they had in an attempt to know who and when the Holy Spirit was indicating or pointing. Indicating (imperfect) describes how the Holy Spirit kept making these indications.

When He predicted…subsequent glories: The Holy Spirit predicted these things by the prophets. The sufferings of Christ speaks to His torture & crucifixion which are well testified to in the Old Testament (e.g. Psa 22; Isa 53). The subsequent glories (pl.) points to His resurrection & ascension. It is Peter who proclaims that these prophesies have been fulfilled by God (Acts 3.18).

An example of a prophet searching & inquiring of the Scriptures is Daniel. Whether he was reading the book of Jeremiah to glean some idea of Christ is not mentioned, but he was reading Jeremiah’s work (Daniel 9.2). Could he have been reading Jeremiah to better understand the person & time of Christ but discovered something else during his Bible study? Does not this happen during our Bible studies? We’ll be reading right along, maybe even have some subject which we are diligently trying to better understand, only to uncover some other hidden gem from Scripture.

12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

It was revealed…but you: It is God who revealed (passive) to the prophets that their prophecies were not for their time & circumstance. Their search & inquiry of the Scriptures confirmed this. They came to know that their service was not for themselves, but for those saved by this grace. Their prophecies certainly brought them hope as they lived by faith. However, they were serving (imperfect) a yet future generation. So their ministry was far grander than they knew.

In the things…the good news to you: The things are the most significant facts of history—the sufferings & glories of Christ. These have now been announced to you…by the Holy Spirit. The announcement originates with God in heaven. Thus the Spirit is sent (Gk apostalenti [aorist]) from heaven, commissioned on Pentecost to oversee the advance of the gospel. Then through those who preached the good news to you (lit. those who evangelized you) He announced it (aorist). Certainly Peter would be head of that list but not the only one on it. Other evangelists no doubt worked in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to evangelize Asia Minor.

Things…to look: Throughout the Law angelic beings had ringside seats to what was doing: cherubim in the Holy of Holies (Ex 25.20-21), seraphim in the heavenly temple (Isa 6.1-2). Peter says that they still long (present) to look into how God’s grace is demonstrated in Christ’s sufferings & glories in relation to the salvation of souls.

Consider that Paul says “the mystery of godliness…was seen by angels” (1 Tim 3.16). When Christ stepped onto the grand stage of human history, every angelic eye was fixated on his every move. His birth, His childhood, His adolescence, His youth, His temptations, His ministry, His miracles, His sermons, His trails, His torture, His crucifixion, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension. All the while, the angels watch with rapt attention the great facts of the history of redemption. Even now the angels still delight to contemplate the advance of the kingdom. They “long to look” into these things.

Nothing causes the angels more confusion than when men & women for whom Christ died allow their faith to grow cold & their walk with Christ becomes listless. Maybe they can understand when men & women for whom Christ died refuse to honor Christ with their life since the evil one has so blinded the world. But when Christians, those who angels serve, whom Christ has saved and God has graced, backslide or rebel or fail to grow, choosing immaturity, surely is the cause of much angelic perplexity & vexation.

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Introduction & Greetings – 1 Peter 1.1-2

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

Peter: see Author.

An apostle…: Without doubt Peter was one of those selected & sent by Christ Jesus.

To those…of the Dispersion: Here is some of the Jewish flavor of this epistle. Dispersion was a term used by Jews to describe their countrymen who we scattered abroad living among the pagans. But these are elect exiles of the Dispersion, i.e. Christians among the pagans in Asia Minor. They were chosen by the King of the universe to be included in His people (elect). Thus, they have a new country—Heaven (Phil 3.20)—a true spiritual homeland (exiles).

Pontus: Asia Minor province which stretched along the south shore of the Black Sea.

Galatia: North-Central Roman territory which could include ethnic areas in the south.

Cappadocia: Isolated area due to Taurus Mtns. (N), Euphrates River (W), & Lake Tatta (E).

Asia: Roman province which embraced western parts of Asia Minor with Ephesus as capital.

Bithynia: Roman province in NW Asia Minor. Paul was prevented from going here (Acts 16.7).

“Elect exiles” is Peter’s “two-word sermon” for this epistle (Grudem 48). Election has a rich Jewish history going back to the origin of the nation of Israel. Springing from His love for their “fathers” God “chose their offspring after them” (Deut 4.37). Regularly Israel is presented as God’s “chosen one’s” (Psalm 105.6; 106.5) or His “chosen people” (Isa 43.20). Also prevalent in the Old Testament is the sojourner motif. This goes all the way back to the father of the faith Abraham who was a “sojourner” among the Hittites (Gen 23.4; cf. Heb 11.13). Although these two themes are dominant in the Old Testament, no one in either Jewish or Christian literature had combined them into this single phrase of “elect exile” as Peter does. Further, Peter applies this phrase to Christians living under empire (i.e. Rome). Though in an earthly sense they may have lived in & been citizens of one city, spiritually they were transients, strangers, sojourners looking forward to a heavenly city. Though their former life was riddled with all kinds of sin & evil expelling them from the people of God, in Christ they chosen by God through their obedient acceptance of the Son.

It is upon this rich heritage that we stand. By doing what they did we get what they got and become what they were: elect exiles. Select sojourners. Chosen transients. Though we may have lived in the same city our whole life or have traveled hither & yon as citizens of the world, spiritually we are “just a-passin’ through” with our treasures “laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Though our former lives were uncontrollable messes broken by sin, in Christ we have learned self-control by upholding the ethic of this spiritual kingdom we have elected to join. We, like our brethren of the 1st century, are elect exiles living under empire.

2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

According to…the Father: The election of these exiles is according to the foreknowledge (Gk prognosis) of the Father. God knew in advance there would be “a chosen race” (selected strangers) formed around Christ (who Himself was “foreknown before the foundation of the world,” 1.20), called into being based upon their response to Christ. “God foreknew that he would send Christ and save those who accepted him” (Black & Black 31).

What does it mean to be “elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”? What is included in God’s foreknowledge, viz. what He knows beforehand? Does God know who will be saved & who won’t be saved? If He does not, does that infringe upon His omniscience? If He does know, does He also will men to these predetermined ends? There are those who argue that He does for “we cannot separate foreknowledge and predestination; the foreknowledge of an Almighty Creator must imply the exercise of choice and will” (Caffin 2). Therefore, what God knows He also wills.

Wayne Grudem suggests that the whole phrase “elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, etc.” is what is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” So “their status as sojourners, their privileges as God’s chosen people, even their hostile environment in [Asia Minor], were all known by God before the world began, all came about in accordance with his foreknowledge, and thus (we may conclude) all were in accordance with his fatherly love for his own people” (50). Imagine what comfort & peace of mind this would have brought to these persecuted Christians. Everything was under the control of a loving Father, nothing was left to chance.

In the same way, we are elect exiles in the Central Valley (or wherever you find yourself) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It is no accident that we live where we live, that we are sojourners on this earth, and that we are the chosen people of God. Rest assured that there is a grand master plan for life, even your life right where you are. See Acts 17.26-27.

In sanctification of the Spirit: or “by the sanctification of the Spirit.” That is, the Holy Spirit set these peoples of Asia Minor apart as God’s chosen people. The Spirit made them holy unto God. Cf. 2 Thess 2.13. Sanctification or to be set apart was always for a purpose, viz. service. The Holy Spirit both sets Christians apart for service & enables them to perform that service.

If the Father’s foreknowledge reaches into eternity past, the Spirit’s sanctification is a present reality. He is setting us apart more & more to look like Christ in holiness, faith, and conduct. “The unseen, unheard activity of God’s Holy Spirit surrounds [these elect exiles] almost like a spiritual atmosphere ‘in’ which they live and breathe, turning every circumstance, every sorrow, every hardship into a tool for his patient sanctifying work” (Grudem 52).

For obedience…His blood: For indicates this is the end or design of God’s plan. Both the human (obedience) and divine (sprinkling) sides of redemption are pictured here.

Obedience & sprinkling, then, looks forward to the future. The Christian’s life ought to be leading toward more & more obedience to Christ. Daily our obedience to Lord Jesus should increase. But it is also the Christian’s imperfect experience which reminds that obedience is often incomplete. So the blood of Jesus Christ is necessary to sprinkle our afflicted & guilty conscience. Thus the faithful Christian life is marked by obedience whose failings are cleansed by the blood of Christ. It is daily continual obedience & forgiveness.

May grace…to you:  Both the Greek (grace) & Hebrew (peace or shalom) forms of salutation are combined here. Peter wants the grace & peace of God to be ever increasing for these Christians.

Note: The whole Godhead is involved in the work of salvation. The Father determined beforehand, the Spirit sanctifies, & the Son sprinkles clean the obedient.

1 Peter – Introductory Material

Destination & Recipients

The epistles is addressed to “those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1.1). These Roman provinces covered all but the southernmost part of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Estimates suggest that the total population of this territory was approximately 8.5 million with 1 million Jews and 80,000 Christians by the end of the first century. These provinces embraced a large area of land as well as a very large population. That all of these provinces are mentioned is a testament to the enormous missionary activities of the early church.

The church in Asia Minor perhaps began some 30 years before Peter wrote this epistle when representatives of three of these places (Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia) who were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost heard Peter’s sermon, believed it, and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2.9). They then went back home, forming the nucleus of the church, and served as a hub for evangelistic efforts to Galatia & Bithynia. While this takes place, the apostle Paul on his 1st & 2nd missionary journeys plants and establishes churches in these areas either directly (as is the case with Galatia, Acts 14; 16.6) or indirectly (as is the case with Bithynia, Acts 19.10).

The actual composition of the churches in this area is debated. Were these predominately Jewish audiences? Were they predominately Gentile congregations? Or were they a mixture of both Jew & Gentile? While the overwhelming use of Old Testament texts might hint at a largely Jewish congregation, much of the language also indicates that there were many Gentiles, viz. the past Gentile immorality of 4.3. Their previous condition of being “not a people” – outside of the covenant – would also indicate that there was a heavy Gentile membership. Therefore, it seems reasonable that these were mixed congregations of the Lord’s people located all around Asia Minor.

Author

As with all of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is the supreme hand behind the pen of any of wrote the books of the Bible. In this case, He oversaw the work of “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ … and a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1.1; 5.1). This epistle clearly claims to be written by the apostle people who was a witness of the Incarnation of Christ, especially His death (cf. 1.11; 2.23-24; 4.1; 5.1). Peter was apparently helped by Silvanus (also known as Silas in Paul’s letters) in the writing process (5.12). That is, he served as an amanuensis or secretary for Peter. Perhaps John Mark spurred Peter, encouraging him to write this epistle (5.13). Mark himself was surely helped along in his writing of the gospel narrative which bears his name by Peter; maybe he returned the favor.

Peter, of course, was the de facto leader of the apostles, named first in every list (Matt 10.2; Mark 3.16; Luke 6.14; Acts 1.13). He appears to the spokesman for the group on several occasions (Matt 16.13-16; Acts 2.14). Paul calls him one of “those who seemed to be influential” and one of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church when he began his ministry (Galatians 2.6-9). Peter is prominent in the opening chapters of Acts (1-12) and in the Jerusalem conference (ch. 15). Following the conference, though, he is no longer mentioned in Acts. His missionary efforts may have taken him deep into Gentile territory. In point of fact, tradition says Peter went to Rome and spent his last days there, having been martyred by Nero.

Time & Place of Composition

Lenski puts the writing of this epistle in the final year of Peter’s life, not long before he meets a martyr’s death under Nero in the year 64 AD. This is pretty well uniform among scholars although some push Peter’s martyrdom, though not necessarily the composition of this epistle, later into the 60s.

This epistle originated “at Babylon” (5.13). There are three possible options for this location: 1) Babylon in Mesopotamia, 2) a Roman military settlement at Cairo, Egypt, named Babylon, or 3) Rome. Rome is poetically pictured as “Babylon” in several Jewish works (i.e. 4 Ezdras & 2 Baruch) as well as in the Revelation (17.5; 18.2). In addition, the evidence is reasonably good that Peter lived and died in Rome. Further, the order of the destination in 1.1 indicates a circulation route originating in the West, viz. from Rome. The letter bearer would have arrived at and departed from the north shores of Pontus-Bithynia. Add to this that the city of Babylon no longer existed and there is not a hint of tradition which indicates Peter went into the distant east only serves to solidify the notion that “Babylon” is a figure for Rome.

Main Emphases & Theme

Salvation, submission, and suffering are main emphases of Peter. All of these revolve around and center in God’s grace. First, you have been saved (past), you are saved (present), and you will be saved (future). Second, in light of your salvation, submit to governing authorities, employers, spouses, one another, and, well, everyone. Third, be prepared to suffer for being a Christian. So stand firm & hope fully in God’s grace as sojourners & strangers living under empire.

Jonah Bibliography

Abegg, Martin, Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich. The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English. New York: HarperOne, 1999.

Andrews, Michael W. “The Sign of Jonah: Jesus in the Heart of the Earth.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 61, no.1: 105-119. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials PLUS, EBSCOhost. 2018. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Brenton, Lancelot Charles Lee. The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament: English Translation. London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1870.

Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Cary, Phillip. Jonah. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008.

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996.

—–. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Vol. 3. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.

Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Freedman, David Noel, Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, John David Pleins, and Astrid B. Beck, eds. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016.

Jensen, Philip Peter. Obadiah, Jonah, Micah : A Theological Commentary. New York: Bloomsbury Academic & Professional, 2008. Accessed November 4, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Lange, John Peter, Philip Schaff, Paul Kleinert, and Charles Elliott. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Jonah. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Lasine, Stuart. “Jonah’s Complexes and Our Own: Psychology and the Interpretation of the Book of Jonah.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 41, no. 2: 237-260. 2016. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials PLUS, EBSCOhost (accessed November 4, 2018).

Mann, Steven T. “Performative Prayers of a Prophet: Investigating the Prayers of Jonah as Speech Acts.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 79, no.1: 20-40. Humanities International Complete, EBSCOhost. 2017. (accessed November 4, 2018).

Peters, Kurtis. “Jonah 1 and the Battle with the Sea: Myth and Irony.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 32, no. 2: 157-165. 2018. DOI: 10.1080/09018328.2018.1470843

Smith, Billy K., and Franklin S. Page. Amos, Obadiah, Jonah. Vol. 19B. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.

Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Willmington, H. L. The Outline Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999.

Wilson, Ambrose J. “The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and Its Modern Confirmations.” The Princeton Theological Review 25, no. 4: 630-643. 1927.

Wood, D. R. W., and I. Howard Marshall. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Application – Jonah

The complete sovereignty of Yahweh is accentuated throughout this short book. Yahweh controls the winds, seas, ship, and fish of His creation in chapters one and two. He controls the plant, worm, and scorching wind in chapter four. He appoints each of these to carry out His sovereign will. Yahweh is, then, the cosmic sovereign Ruler and nothing is outside His control except for the will of man. Jonah exercises his free will and rebels. The sailors exercise their free will and reluctantly hurl Jonah into the sea then offer freewill sacrifices. The Ninevites exercise their free will and repent. All of these acts are the result of people exercising their free will. Yet even in the acts of men Yahweh is glorified. The sailors seeing the storm calmed call on Yahweh and offer sacrifices. Though he takes some persuading, eventually Jonah comes around and does the will of God. The Ninevites are convicted by the word of God and glorify Him by their repentance.

Even as Yahweh was sovereign over the events in Jonah’s day, so too He continues to exert His sovereignty over His creation. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust,” says Jesus (Matt 5.45). He is still control of things and events. Yet this sovereignty remains balanced with the free will of man. People continue to exert their free will in either rebellion to the Lord or in obedience to Him. Some may take more persuading than others, but people can and are convicted by His word and glorify God by repentance.

Jonah speaks clearly to the power of the word of God. At the preaching of a reluctant and perhaps disinterested prophet the people turn from their wicked ways. Even at a half-hearted declaration of the word of God the people heard and repented. The word of God was the power of God unto salvation and righteous then; it remains the power of God unto salvation and righteous today. God’s word is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4.12). Christians today can depend upon the certainty that God’s word will not return to Him empty (Isa 55.11).

Jonah’s declaration that idols are “empty nothingness” (2.8) is an echo of Psalm 31.7: “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in Yahweh.” The paganism of the mariners in chapter one was a vivid example of the nothingness of idolatry. They “cried out” to their respective god(s) and received nothing but empty silence in return. Many people today are trapped in the “empty nothingness” of idolatry. Idols today do not look like the idols then, yet they are just as potent. People kowtow to the idols of salary, success, and sex. Even some Christians fall prey to the allure of these gods. However, fortune, fame, and fondling disconnected from a godly perspective will only leave one empty and dissatisfied. Our trust must be in God so that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor, humility, and intimacy as designed by God.

There is also an evangelistic component to the book of Jonah. Jonah refused to hear the cries of the world, specifically the 120,000 in Nineveh. He was also furious when they repented. He cared more for a plant than for people. Worst of all, he hated that God had been merciful upon the Ninevites. In a similar way, Christians today can adopt a self-righteous mentality toward the world. Christians can become deaf to their cries for salvation. They can become consumed with a love of possessions to the marginalization of a love for people. They might develop an older brother mentality like the older son in Jesus parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15.25ff), callous at the grace of the Father and refusing to celebrate His abundant mercy. The church must not adopt an isolationist policy, withdrawing from the world. Her ears must ever be open to the cries of the world. Unlike Jonah, she ought to celebrate the grace and mercy of the Father.

Displeasure: The Prophet Runs Against God (Jonah 4)

Jonah’s flawed character is on full display in the concluding chapter. He is “displeased” with Yahweh’s decision to relent from destroying Nineveh. That is, “What pleased God displeased Jonah.”[1] There is a wordplay in Hebrew which Phillip Cary attempts to capture in his translation: “It was grievous to Jonah, a great evil.”[2] So as the Ninevites repent of their evil, Yahweh relents of His evil declared for Nineveh, and all this is regarded as evil by Jonah. In addition, Jonah becomes angry with God. The twist is stunning: previously Yahweh had “fierce anger” (3.9) toward Nineveh which has now been diverted only for Jonah to become angry over Yahweh’s grace. Taken together the reader is to understand that Jonah hated Yahweh’s decision to spare Nineveh.

Compounding Jonah’s hatred over Yahweh’s grace is his heated prayer to God (4.2). The contrast between the prayer of 4.2-3 and the prayer of 2.2-9 is striking. First, Jonah is defiant. He begins, “Please Yahweh” (NASB). Read as a tragic comedy this could be translated as, “Please! Tell me you’re not serious!”[3] Second, Jonah is self-centered. In the ESV, the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” appear eight times.[4] Though addressed to Yahweh, this prayer is about Jonah. Third, Jonah interprets his actions at the beginning. While yet in his country and during his flight to Tarshish he knew the God of Israel. He fled from his prophetic office in chapter one because he knew Yahweh’s gracious nature. Fourth, Jonah’s prayer has deep ties throughout the Hebrew Bible (cf. Ex 34.6-7; Num 14.18; Psa 145.8; Joel 2.13). Jonah’s knowledge of the identity of Yahweh comes from Yahweh’s self-revelation in Torah. Yahweh is a God of grace and mercy. Yahweh is patient, longsuffering, and full of covenantal steadfast love (Heb. hesed). Yahweh relents of impending disaster. Hannah explains Jonah “feared that all these attributes of God would be extended toward the despicable, cruel Ninevites—and it happened!”[5] The reader is left to wonder: What happened to Jonah’s declaration “Salvation belongs to Yahweh” (2.10)? Did he only mean his salvation and/or Israel’s salvation, but not the salvation of pagan nations? Finally, Jonah longed for death (3). Death is better than life for Jonah. The one who had been saved from certain death (2.2, 7) has become the one who wishes to die. Whatever ground gained by his conversion in chapter two seems to have been lost by his anger over God’s grace.

One is left to wonder why Jonah is so outraged and disgusted with Yahweh. Some have suggested that his anger stems from his misguided nationalism which could even be interpreted as racism and bigotry. Others have suggested that Jonah is grossly embarrassed over being essentially made a fool for proclaiming destruction only to have the prophecy fail. It is also suggested that Jonah knows that Assyria will be the nation which brings about violent destruction upon the Northern tribes of Israel.[6] Each of these are good options. Whatever the cause, the net result is a joyless Jonah at the salvation of God for Nineveh.

Despite his impassioned speech/prayer, he is unable to move Yahweh to repent of His repentance and destroy Nineveh. On the contrary, Yahweh asks Jonah a pointed question: “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (4.4, NASB) The intent is to confront the darkness in Jonah’s heart. Jonah’s theology is on-point, but it has not impacted his heart.

As the book nears the conclusion, there is what some call a parable[7] or illustration[8] involving a plant, a worm, and the sun. Jonah seems to have been left speechless by Yahweh’s question so he goes out “east” of the city. Perhaps the motif from the early chapters in Genesis is in view here where the east signifies rebellion against God.[9] Jonah is then pictured in rebellion to God. Or it could be an exile motif since the kingdoms of Israel and then Judah would be taken east to Assyria then Babylon, respectively. Hence, this is a self-imposed exile where he attempts once again to get away from God. Whether rebellion or exile (perhaps both), Jonah finds a place to view the city and builds a shelter to watch what God will do with Nineveh.

The same steadfast love that would not let the penitent Ninevites see destruction is the same steadfast love that will not allow Jonah to continue in his self-destructive cycle without being confronted. God’s patience (“slow to anger”) is on display as He deals with Jonah. First, Yahweh God (Heb. yahweh elohim) miraculously provides a plant to grow up rather quickly to shade Jonah from his “discomfort” (4.6; lit. evil, see ESV marginal reading). As God has sovereignly done before by providing a big fish to swallow Jonah, now God sovereignly provides a large plant to shade him. For the only time in the whole book Jonah is “exceedingly glad.” It was not the miraculous salvation from the sea nor the mass repentance of the Ninevites which brought delirious joy to Jonah. His frustration and fury is abated by a plant. The next day, God sends a worm that destroys Jonah’s plant (4.7). Interestingly, of all the things that have been threatened with destruction throughout the book (ship, sailors, Jonah, the Ninevites, et al) it is only Jonah’s plant that is destroyed and that by a worm “appointed” by God. Third, accompanying the worm is a divinely appointed “scorching east wind” (4.8). There is wordplay in the original concerning the actions of the worm and wind. As the worm had “attacked” the plant so the sun “beat down” upon Jonah’s head (both from Heb. nākâ, “to strike”). These compounding circumstances lead to Jonah once again longing for death. He begs for death saying that death is better than life.

The book concludes how it began: with a word from God. God repeats verbatim his question from the previous day to Jonah, although God poses the question about the plant: does Jonah have a good reason to be angry about the plant? (4.9, cf.v.4) Jonah answers that he does have a right to be angry. So Yahweh provides Jonah and the reader with the divine perspective (10-11). The argument is essentially a lesser-to-greater argument. The lesser thing is the plant. Jonah was compassionate toward a plant he did not work for and that withered in less than a day. The greater thing is the people of Nineveh. There were over 120,000 people living in Nineveh along with “many animals” (NASB). In addition, the citizens of Nineveh do not know their right hand from their left, “thus picturing their spiritual and moral condition without God.”[10] Jonah is concerned about a tiny part of creation whereas God was concerned about many of His creatures. Therefore, if Jonah can have concern for a plant, why should not God have mercy on people? The book ends with this question from Yahweh and leaves Jonah and the reader to decide what to do with the divine perspective.

[1] Ibid., 271.

[2] Cary, 25.

[3] Ibid., 17, 129. Cary approaches the book of Jonah in this fashion, saying, “Jonah is a comic figure.” His commentary on 4.2 explains this interpretation.

[4] Smith and Page note that it is nine times in the original (273).

[5] Hannah, 1470.

[6] See Smith and Page, 271-271, where they rehearse the various options.

[7] Cary, 138.

[8] Hannah, 1471.

[9] Adam and Eve are driven “east of the Garden of Eden” (3.24); after slaughtering his brother, Abel, Cain settles “east of Eden” (4.16); construction on the Tower of Babel happens because of the migration of “people from the east” (11.2).

[10] Hannah, 1472. There are some who say that the 120,000 who do not know their right hand from their left are children. Such an understanding would balloon the population figure up over 600,000. However, archaeology cannot confirm such an inflated number.

Declaration: The Prophet Runs With God (Jonah 3.1-10)

Chapter three records the fulfillment of Yahweh’s mission for Jonah. It repeats nearly verbatim the command from 1.2. There is the addition of “the second time,” a phrase which is unique to Jonah the prophet. Once again Jonah is to “call out” against Ninevah. The word for “call out” is the same which has appeared so many time already in the book (see notes on 2.1). There is no purpose statement as before (cf. 1.2, “for their evil has come up before me”). Instead, Jonah is also told that Yahweh will provide his prophetic message (2, “the message that I tell you”).  While there is some confusion about the tense (past, present or future tense?) Jonah is assured that what he “calls out” to Ninevah will be the word of Yahweh.

What readers expected when reading 1.1-3 now comes to fruition in 3.3 as Jonah manifests simple obedience and “arose and went to Ninevah” thus fulfilling the word of Yahweh. If Jonah was vomited out by the big fish near his original starting point (several commentators say this is possible), then it would have taken him a month to five weeks to complete the 500-600 mile trek from Joppa depending on his mode of transportation.[1] Such a trip shows the high cost obedience to God.

Verse 3b is a sticking point for textual critics. First is the statement, “Nineveh was an exceedingly great city” (emphasis mine). Smith and Page note, “several scholars point to this as proof that Nineveh had ceased to exist by the time of Jonah’s writing.”[2] As discussed under “Date,” the composition of the book could have been done during or following the Babylonian captivity and therefore had already been eliminated from the world stage as a nation. The author, then, is merely reporting the historical account of when Jonah went to Nineveh circa 8th century B.C. Second, the text says that Nineveh’s size was “three days journey in breadth.” Archaeologists have found that the circumference of the inner wall of Nineveh “was less than eight miles. So the diameter of the city, less than two miles, was hardly a three-day journey.”[3]This has led some to argue that the three days “is not a reference to the circumference of the city; the diameter of the city; or the circuit of the administrative districts,” but instead is to be understood in reference to how long it would take Jonah to complete his prophetic assignment.[4] However, this seems unnecessary since some have identified this as Greater Nineveh, “which was an area encompassing four cities, including Nineveh and its environs.”[5] Therefore a literal explanation seems the best way to understand the phrase.

Jonah is obedient to his prophetic mission and the people of Nineveh in turn obey God (4-5). Jonah’s mission begins as soon as he arrives and very simply. There is no fanfare or meetings with the power-players of the city. The message Jonah delivers is austere. It is only five words in Hebrew. The word Jonah was promised by God is a message of certain doom in forty days. Jonah does not even mention which deity has sent him. There is no call for repentance, no hope of ameliorating the wrath to come. Or is there? The forty days seem to have been a grace period whereby the “overthrow” of the city could be understood as an overthrow of the evil in hearts. Despite the brevity of the message, the people of Nineveh believed God (Heb. elohim). Every person in Nineveh “from the greatest to the least of them” show the marks of contrition: fasting and sackcloth. Even the king is roused to repent (6-7).

One may wonder why the whole city would be so receptive to the preaching of Jonah? Hannah explains: “Before Jonah arrived at this seemingly impregnable fortress-city, two plagues had erupted there (in 765 and 759 b.c.) and a total eclipse of the sun occurred on June 15, 763. These were considered signs of divine anger and may help explain why the Ninevites responded so readily to Jonah’s message, around 759.”[6] Perhaps signs and wonders played a role in preparing a superstitious pagan culture for the doomsday message of Jonah. Or perhaps this is more a testimony that the word of God has always been “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4.12).

Critics have cited the phrase “king of Nineveh” in 3.6 to dispute the authenticity of the book. The argument is that the writer, whoever he or she was, should have called him the king of Assyria, since Nineveh is the capital of the empire of Assyria. However, there is evidence which indicates this was an accepted practice in describing suzerains of that time. For example, Elwell and Beitzel note that Ahab, the king of Israel, is called “king of Samaria” (1 Kgs 21.1), and Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, is designated “king of Damascus” (2 Chr 24.23).[7] So there is precedent for the city designation for an ancient Near East king. In addition, we know historically at the time of Jonah (early to mid 8th century B.C.) the kingdom of Assyria was tenuously held together. Only after decades of weakness would Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.) consolidate the power of the kingdom.[8] Therefore, this could also explain the phrase “king of Nineveh,” as well as the phrase “and his nobles” in the proclamation (3.7); these are indicative of the diminished power of the monarchy at that time.

The king’s proclamation (7-9) is universal in scope including people and animals. The people of Nineveh are to “call out [same word used to describe Jonah’s preaching, 1.2; 3.2] mightily [lit. with strength] to God” (Heb. elohim). Jonah’s preaching did not mention Yahweh. Thus it seems the Ninevites did not call out specifically to Yahweh. They know God, but it does not appear they know Yahweh. They never mention him by name, opting instead to call on elohim. Nevertheless, their conversion to the supreme God is evidence by the fact that Jesus affirms that their conversion was genuine for they “repented at the preaching of Jonah” and they will rise to condemn Jesus’ generation at the judgment (Matt 12.41; Luke 11.32). Even the text of Jonah indicates true repentance (fasting, sackcloth, pleading with God, abandoning sinful practices).

As they call out to God, they are to “turn” from their evil ways and from the “violence” of their hands. The Assyrians were a vicious, wicked nation and Nineveh was the wicked capital. The prophet Nahum documents the sordid history of violence this nation perpetrated against other nations. He calls Nineveh “the bloody city” (Nah 3.1) guilty of “unceasing evil” (3.17). Specifically, Nineveh was full of deceit (3.1), guilty of carnage and slaughter (3.2-3), and full of the dark arts and magical practices (3.4). They would be the war machine that would crush the Northern Tribes. This record is the evil and violence of which they were repenting.

The purpose of the Ninevites’s repentance is that God would repent of His “fierce anger” (Jon 3.9). Their desire is that God “turn and relent and turn,” a three-fold expression for divine mercy. Jonah had not told them what to do or if there was anything they could do. Hence, the king’s question of “Who knows?” It is reminiscent of the captain’s “perhaps” in 1.6. The pagan’s don’t really know what they can do to appease Yahweh’s wrath. They hold the philosophy, “Something is better than nothing.” They are hopeful that whatever they do it will cause them not to perish.

Verse 10 is the culmination of the purposes of God toward Ninevah through the prophet Jonah. God has “disaster” (lit. evil; Heb. rāʿâ) in store for them. However, because they “turned” from their evil, God turned from the evil (i.e. disastrous judgment) He was going to bring upon them. This is in total agreement with His nature as revealed through Jeremiah (Jer 18.7-8).

The crisis was averted; or at least disaster is delayed for a century and a half until the time of Babylon. In the meantime, the forty days came and went but no destruction came upon Nineveh. “Here one finds irrefutable evidence that God wishes not for the destruction of the sinner but for the redemption and reconciliation of all his creation.”[9] Out of His immeasurable mercy God did not bring judgment.

[1] Stephen R. Schrader, “Jonah,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 647.

[2] Smith and Page, 256.

[3] John D. Hannah, “Jonah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1463.

[4] Schrader, 648.

[5] Phillip Cary, Jonah (Grand Rapids, MI: BrazosPress, 2008), 107.

[6] Hannah, 1462.

[7] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Jonah, Book Of,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1205.

[8] Smith and Page, 205.

[9] Ibid., 270.