God’s Grace & Salvation, part 3

Peter begins a new paragraph by shifting from the idea of newborn babies needing spiritual milk from the Lord to holy priests in a spiritual house rendering sacrifice to God. At the same time, this section belongs with all that has gone before concerning God’s grace & our salvation. Just as our hope is living (1.3) and the word of God is living (1.23), so we are “living stones” & Christ is the living Stone to Whom we come & are built into this spiritual house. Peter will quote from or allude to the Old Testament often to show how these Christians are God’s people.

Living Stones – Examples of God’s Grace (2.4-12)

Christians are living examples of God’s grace, & they glorify God in life & worship.

4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,

As you come to Him:  Lit. coming toward him (pres.). Not just when they were converted, but this is continually drawing near to Christ by continued faith in Him. The Christian must ever be drawing closer to Christ, every day; drawing near to His presence for sacrifice.

Coming to Christ is siding with God. At the same time, choosing Christ will mean rejection from “men,” that is, people in general. Jesus said as much: John 15.18, 20, 21. The reason they will reject us is because they first “rejected” Him. When He came, after He ascended, in the first century, throughout time since then, on to today, men still reject Him. They do not consider Him worthy to follow. But we do. We are those who are continually coming to Christ, ever drawing near to Him.

A living stone…chosen and precious:  cf. Acts 4.11. Jesus is a living stone because He is “Son of the Living God” (Mt 16.16).  Christ has life in Himself, inherently, & is the source of life. He is unlike other earthly rocks which are non-living; He lives & gives life. During His earthly ministry, during the lifetimes of the original audience, & even today Christ was & is rejected by men (perf.). However, Peter draws a contrast between the world’s view & God’s view of Christ. God esteems Christ as chosen and precious, that is, elect & highly valued. Rejected, chosen, & precious are all vocabulary from Psalm 118.22 & Isaiah 28.16, texts Peter will quote in the verses ahead.

It was almost as if Peter anticipated the Catholic fallacy that was yet to come which would make him the stone upon which Christ builds His church. Of course it was the Holy Spirit Who foreknew this and has Peter here a) deny his stone-ship while b) affirm Christ as chief cornerstone.

5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

You yourselves like living stones: Here is a thought which would have amazed these Christians—even they are living stones. Of course their union with Christ the Living Stone is why they are living stones. Like Christ, they are elect & highly valued to God.

Are being built…house: being built up is a passive verb because it is Christ who builds His church (see Mt 16.18). Christians “come to Him” (v.4); He builds us into a spiritual house. The present tense may indicate that the building is ongoing, i.e. Jesus continues to build His spiritual house by adding souls (living stones) to the structure & priests to His priesthood.

Christ is both the Builder & the Foundation (1 Cor 3.11). The building He builds is not material but spiritual; He does not use dead rocks, but living stones. Then the sacrifices offered in this temple are not physical (cattle & flocks), but spiritual (obedience & surrender). They are not offered by an elite priesthood with special access to God, but by all believers who are His holy priesthood. This is what the Jewish system anticipated; this is what pagan ritual grasped for. The substance & fulfillment is realized in Christ.

To be a holy priesthood: Christians are both the spiritual temple & the priests of the temple. All saints are priests unto God & all are to be engaged in their priestly duty, namely…

To offer…Jesus Christ: Like the priests of the Old Testament, Christians are to offer spiritual sacrifices. Peter does not specify exactly what the spiritual sacrifices are, though verse 9 (“that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him”) may be one. In one sense, everything Peter exhorts his readers to be & do could be seen as a spiritual sacrifice. These sacrifices bring pleasure to God since they are offered through Jesus Christ.

Temple, priest, sacrifices. In this single verse Peter highlights the superiority of the new covenant, contrasting the material temple & sacrifices with the spiritual & living house, priesthood, & sacrifices. “The New Testament church is the true spiritual house of God” (Lenski). We offer praise & thanksgiving for the grace poured out on us (see Hebrews 13.15). We offer our bodies for holy living (see Romans 12.1). We offer our contribution to God (see Philippians 4.18). We offer our prayers & petitions to God (see Revelation 8.3). We offer the gospel to lost humanity (see verse 9).

Once again it seems as though the Holy Spirit through Peter anticipates the error of Catholicism which says that only a few select people are priests. Rather, what Peter describes here is the universal priesthood of all believers. Every Christian is a selected priest precious to God and set apart to offer up sacrifices that are dominated by the influence of the Holy Spirit.

6For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

For it stands in Scripture: cf. 1.16, the Writings (Gk graphe), i.e. the Old Testament Scriptures were for the Peter the source of authority for Christian doctrine. Once more he appeals to the Scriptures, in this case Isaiah 28.16, a text early Jewish interpreters regarded as Messianic.

The Word of God continues to “stand” today. What stands in Scripture continues to be the source of authority for life & doctrine for the church of Christ.

“Behold…precious”: Peter quotes from the Septuagint (LXX) and omits a few unimportant words, his focus being the substance of the idea: the excellency of the Living Stone. Behold indicates this is an astonishing thing God is doing. I lay in Zion because this is where Christ suffered & died and also from whence the gospel was preached. Chosen and precious have already been used to describe Christ (see v.4). As a cornerstone Christ is the first stone laid by which the whole foundation is aligned and built around.

Lenski says the cornerstone “governs all the angles and all the lines of both the foundation and the building and is thus placed at the head of the corner.” So Christ governs everything about His church – all the actions & attitudes. He sets orthodoxy & orthopraxy.

“And whoever…shame”: Our trust, our faith is well-placed when put in Him. Thus, there is no disappointment or embarrassment, no disgrace or humiliation—no shame—for whoever puts their faith (believes) in Christ.

7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

So the honor…believe: Though these Christians were an oppressed minority, despised by society at-large, the honor is for you because of their faith. Whatever honor or preciousness the Stone has is for you who believe. His worth is their worth; His honor is theirs also. On the other hand…

But…not believe: For those who continue in rebellion and unbelief…

“The stone…the cornerstone”: Psalm 118.22. “The point of the quotation is to show that those who rejected Christ have been proved exactly wrong by God’s exaltation of him to the place of greatest prominence” (Grudem 105).

Consider a parable: The kingdom of God is like builders who were busily building a structure. The work was progressing nicely, moving along at rapid pace as the builders were busily at work. They desired a structure which would be the envy of the universe. So they worked fast and hard. Their work required many stones which they used without second thought. But they came upon a particular stone. This stone gave them pause and, after evaluating the stone, they deemed it unworthy of their building and cast it aside. As their work was nearing completion, the owner of the building came by late in the afternoon to see how the work was progressing. He found the workers busily building His building. When the owner inquired about the particular stone, the foremen said they had not used that stone because it was wholly unfit for the structure. The owner was furious and said, “That stone is precious to me for I chose it especially for this work.”  The owner ordered that their building be torn down brick by brick and that a new structure be built in its place with the precious stone He selected to be the cornerstone. Then the owner ordered these foremen to be cast out into the night where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

And “A stone…offense”: see Isaiah 8.14. Originally it was YHWH of Hosts who became “a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling.” Now Jesus is the stumbling stone & offensive rock, as well as a sanctuary for those who believe (see “honor” in v.7). This is an instance where Christians readily identified YHWH with Christ.

Here is still another example where the deity of Christ is affirmed by the NT writers, esp. those who lived with Him and were eyewitnesses of Him. Some today want to strip Christ of His Godhood (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc.). These refuse to believe Jesus is God, aligning themselves with “those who disobey” & therefore stumble over the Stone, themselves offended by the pure doctrine of the word. Let us hold fast the apostolic testimony that Jesus is the Christ, indeed YHWH of the OT come in the flesh.

They stumble…to do: Stumbling is a direct consequence of disobedience. So as they were destined to do speaks of the penalty for their disobedience (i.e. stumbling), not the disobedience itself. “They rebelled against God and paid the penalty” (Robertson). Those who disobey are held accountable.

What does it mean to stumble? Well, there is some obstacle in the way into which one runs, striking the foot or leg causing the trip and, typically, fall and usually with injury. If I had a dollar for every time I bashed my toe into something…Especially in the dark and you do not see the obstacle. In this case, the soul fails to believe; that is, the soul is wandering around in the dark, unilluminated by the Light of the world – Christ. This failure to believe does not enable them to see the capstone which for them is now the stumbling stone, the rock by which they are scandalized (Gk skandalon).

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

But you…race: But you indicates two things: 1) contrast (“but”) between the unbelieving Jews who a) rejected the chief Cornerstone & b) refuse to believe in Him and the Christians to whom Peter writes who have a) accepted Christ & b) believe in Him. 2) Emphasis – “you” (citizens) as opposed to them (unbelieving Jews outside the rule of God). These Christians have been chosen by God & are genetically (Gk genos) linked by the blood of Jesus (1.2, 19). Cf. Isa 43.20

A royal priesthood: The universal priesthood of Christians has already been mentioned (v.5). Now the idea is combined with the regal aspect due to our relation to the King of kings. Ex 19.6

Holy nation: Cf. Exodus 19.5-6. As Israel was a theocracy, so the church today is a sacred state.

People for His own possession: Exodus 19.5. The idea is that we have been purchased , even redeemed by the blood of Christ (1.19).

Peter’s contrast is stunning and sweeping: first, the church is contrasted with unbelievers who reject Christ, the Cornerstone, and continue in unbelief. But then Peter digs deeper and contrasts the church – New Israel – with the nation of Israel. He borrows copiously from Exodus 19.5-6 and the covenantal language therein contained to say that the church is now the covenanted people of God under the New Covenant forged in the blood of Jesus (“chosen race,” Gk genos eklekton). Israel was the shadow people; their covenant was real, make no mistake. But it has given way to a greater substance in Christ.

“Like the old people of God, the nation of Israel, the new people of God are a nation of people set apart for the service of God” (Black & Black 65). Indeed, our work, worship, and worth flow from being set apart by God to be this holy, royal kingdom of priests. “The purpose of the people of God is now explained. God has chosen them to be his people, established them as a royal priesthood, appointed them as a holy nation to be his special possession, so that they would ‘declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’”[1] The declaration of God’s praise includes both worship & evangelism – directing our hearts upward to Him for saving us & spreading the good news of His salvation outward to others.

That…His marvelous light: Cf. Isa 43.21. Here is the purpose—announcing the virtues of God. Darkness is “the futile ways inherited by your forefathers” (1.18) or rank heathenism. His marvelous light is the Christian manner of life patterned after the model of Christ. See Eph 5.8ff.

Our mission is singular but with different aspects: we are this elect, royal, holy, priestly nation that belongs to God so that we might continue the ministry of God’s people throughout all ages: declaring His praise. “Man’s chief & highest end is to glorify God,” says the Westminster Confession. We exclaim His excellencies; we vocalize His virtues; we proclaim His praise. This carries with it a celebratory aspect: we celebrate God for transferring us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son by His blood. Early church writers connected this verse with baptismal liturgy and for good reason – that is when we are called out & become the people of God.

10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Once…God’s people: Verse 10 is an allusion to Hosea’s sordid story (see Hosea 1.6-7, 9-10; 2.23). Once upon a time (i.e. before Christ) these people were not God’s people. Now they are!

Once…received mercy: They had never been shown mercy until God called them and they received mercy (aorist). Peter is pointing them to their conversion which ended their “no mercy.”

When a person obeys the gospel, they move from being in a “no mercy” state before God to knowing & experiencing the mercy of God. All at once their situation changes.

11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Beloved: Loved by Peter, because saved people love other saved people, & loved by God.

I urge you…the flesh: I (strongly) urge you is about as close as you can get to begging without infringing upon proper manners. Sojouners are those who have a residence in a foreign land but are not citizens of that territory; exiles are those who are just visiting for a time (see 1.17). Since “this is world is not my home,” keep on keeping your distance from the gross sins of the flesh.

Since our citizenship is in heaven, we are sojourners and strangers. We have a homeland which, though we have never seen, we long for. So as we live out the remainder of our exile on earth, we keep ever before us our distant country. We refuse to learn the practices of this strange land we are in. That was what ruined Israel – once they got into the land they learned the practices of those whom they were to drive out. Learn the lesson well: do not learn the practices of those citizens of this world because this world is not our home.

Which wage war against your soul: There’s a war going on for the souls of Christians. The present tense indicates this is ongoing & daily. These passions take no prisoners.

For a vivid depiction of the war between the flesh and the spirit see Galatians 5.16-24. However, it must be noted that though Christians have the Spirit of God in them, they are not exempt from fleshly desires. There is still a battle to fight every day against the flesh, the devil, & the world. That battle runs deep, even to “your soul.” The spiritual forces of darkness know exactly what buttons to push in order to tempt us. It could be lust. It could be anger. It could be greed. Peter has already listed several “lesser” sins (2.1). But these are just as devastating as the “big” sins.

12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Keep…honorable: The Christian’s “behavior” (NASB) as they live among the uncovenanted people of this world is to be honorable, that is, it should be of positive moral quality.

How should Christians live in this world? How can we be holy when in the midst of unbelievers? This is Peter’s thesis for this epistle. He’s taken his time to build up their identity in Christ; now he will get intensely practical and direct concerning how to be holy in an unholy world.

The world is watching closely our behavior. Long before they ever hear a sermon they are looking for one, looking at one in how we live our lives. Our conduct must be morally excellent, so much so that even those “evildoers” who have only a shade of moral sense left will recognize it as honorable.

So that…evildoers: Those doing evil gleefully speak in opposition to Christians.

They…day of visitation: To see is to look upon intently with careful consideration. So the Gentiles closely inspect the Christians’ good deeds in anticipation of the day of visitation wherein they will honor God. Theories of what the day of visitation abound: 1) the day of judgment; 2) some times of persecution; 3) destruction of Jerusalem; 4) some time when the gospel is preached to the Gentiles.

It is interesting to note that Peter does not call Christians to march on Rome & pursue political activism. He does not order Christians to take up arms & fight against a tyrannical government. The inspired apostle does not exhort Christians to defend themselves verbally or write religious tracts defending their moral positions. The Holy Spirit through Peter encourages these believers to pursue goodness & virtue in all simplicity in order that their transformed conduct would contradict the lies & slander from the hostile society.

_____________________________

[1] Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 2

Peter has focused his reader’s attention on their salvation & the grace which is theirs, spiritual treasures which prophets search intently for & angels strongly desire to see (3-12). With this firmly in mind, he will now exhort his readers to think & act in a holy manner.

Holy Living – By God’s Grace (1.13-2.3)

God’s grace enables Christians to a live a holy even under a hostile empire.

13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Therefore: Due to the greatness & glory of salvation explained in verse 3-12…

Preparing your minds for action: lit. “gird up the loins of your mind” (so NKJV), a phrase lost on most modern readers, but a common practice in ANE culture where long robes were worn. In order to engage in vigorous activity (running, fast walking, etc.), the robes would have to be pulled up into their belt allowing them freedom of motion. In modern English, we might say “roll up your sleeves.” Peter is telling his audience to get ready for intense mental activity (your minds).

I have been saying that the church needs to be a thinking & thoughtful community. Peter exhorts even us to prepare for intense mental activity. Even as Elijah “gathered up his garment” and outran Ahab’s chariot, so we too must roll up the sleeves of our minds so that we can outthink culture & society with the Truth. Even our Lord has said, “Stay dressed for action” or “Let your waist be girded” (NKJV) – it’s the same idea.

Being sober-minded:  Not merely by abstaining from alcohol, but also do not let your mind wander to other mental intoxicants & addictions.  Things that belong to “the futile ways” (v.18).

We must also be clear-headed, not intoxicated by the thoughts of the world. With 24-hour news, non-stop social media, open-letter, politics, sports, etc. Just as surely as alcohol will impair your judgment, so too will intoxicating worldly thoughts carry away our minds from soundness to paranoia, fear, anxiety, worry, depression, defeat, etc.

Set your hope…revelation of Jesus Christ: Peter combines both the now & not yet aspect of our grace. First, we hope fully on this grace, that is, we are to have a very strong confident expectation of grace at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We look forward to His return when grace will be fully realized. But also, the grace “is being brought” (present participle) to you. Grace is already on the way, indeed, “the immeasurable riches of His grace” are ours in Christ Jesus (Eph 2.7). Yet, there is still more to come at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

As obedient children: As points to their present actual character before God, namely, obedient children or lit. “children of obedience.” Formerly, these were “children of disobedience” (cf. Eph 5.6), but now they are those who seek to please their heavenly Father by their holy character.

Do not be…former ignorance: Conformed is used by Paul in Romans 12.2. Here, as there, an apostle is exhorting Christians to avoid the pattern or mold into which the world would press us. This is a lifestyle that the audience was familiar with since is was their former ignorance. They did not know God’s ways, but instead gratified their passions.

“Christians must live as God’s children and be obedient to their Father” (Black & Black 45). Before our conversion to Christ we were supremely selfish; now we seek to serve others because saved people serve people. Before our conversion we lived to gratify our own desires; now we seek to do what God desires and so please Him. Before Christ, while we may have regarded basic decencies of life and sought some measure of health or reputation, we still did not regard God’s will; now, without regard to our own reputation or health, we seek to uphold God’s will. Before conversion we conformed to the culture & opinions around us; now we seek to influence culture for Christ and destroy every lofty opinion set up against the knowledge of Christ.

“Now [Christians] are to be governed by a different rule, and their own former standard of morals and of opinions is no longer their guide, but the will of God.” (Barnes)

15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

But as He…is holy: But is strong contrast. Holiness is an inherent attribute of deity (see Ex 15.11; Isa 6.3). God is separate from, even other than, all that we know in His majesty & glory. Notice: holy God called Christians, i.e. He initiated salvation through the gospel (cf. 2.9, 21; 3.9; 5.10).

You also…all your conduct: Christians have been called to be holy. All your conduct captures every thought & action of every day. This is total holiness, inward & outward conformity to the pattern of holiness (i.e. God Himself). The impetus for our holy conduct is the holiness of God.

“What God asked of Israel when he made that people his own he now asks and must ask of us whom he has called by Jesus Christ.” (Lenski) We imitate His moral character, His holiness, which is the ultimate basis for ethics. God’s holy moral character is the reason there are moral absolutes. Why are certain things right and certain things wrong and they are always right or always wrong? Look no further than the holiness of God. He delights in those things which reflect His holiness (moral character) and hates that which is opposed to His holiness. See Psalm 15.

16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Since it is written: As is always the case, Scripture is the sole authority for doctrine & practice.

“You…I am holy”: Quote from Leviticus 11.44-45; 19.2; 20.7, 26. So both Testaments require holiness from God’s people & both ground this imperative in God’s holiness.

Since God is holy and we profess to be His followers, we must be holy. All that intense mental effort Peter just wrote about is to be devoted to holiness. A purging of the mind of all that is low, base, corrupt, wicked, & evil must take place. Even the heavens are not pure in His sight (Job 15.15)! Nevertheless, we flawed, fallen creatures of dust must roll up the sleeves of our minds, be self-controlled, & hope completely, perfectly upon His grace both now and forevermore. Eager, earnest effort is what is required of committed Christians. We are saints only if we pursue holiness with all that is within. And we do because we know “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14). It is not just the big sins which weigh down the soul so that we do not progress in holiness (murder, fornication, etc.). A thousand little one pound sins will just as surely crush the soul. Stop using the world’s goods on yourself alone (selfishness). Cease thinking evil about other people, esp. your brethren (malice). Put away the idolatry of worry and pride. Then cultivate Christ-like behaviors & attitudes: help others, love others, esp. the unlovable. Do good to people, esp. your enemies. Not only have you shed those things which God hates, you are allowing His holiness to be reflected in you. Herein is true religion: the imitation of Him we worship. Holiness is imitating God.

17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

And if…[work]: Or “and sincebecause this is a continuation of what Peter has been saying & no doubt these Christians do call the impartial judge of all Father. God called them to be obedient children, so they call Him Father. But He is also He Who judges (present part.) or more accurately “the one judging.” So in view is not final judgment (although this still applies, cf. 2 Cor 5.10), but the idea Peter expresses here is that God is presently weighing our actions & thoughts without prejudice or favoritism (lit. not receiving face). Our “work” summarizes all our actions & thoughts.

Conduct…your exile: Since God is an ever-present judge who weighs the heart, since we live in His presence and He knows our personal “work,” reverential awe & respect (fear) is the appropriate response during our earthly lives (i.e. the time of our exile).

Is our work holy unto God? Most people jump immediately to the final judgment. However, God is an ever-present judge, either excusing or condemning our life’s work. He “judges” or is judging right now. Either He pats us on the back or head and says “atta boy” or He shakes His head and “Why?” We need to maintain this holy fear derived from a deep sense of God’s presence realized by faith. We cannot even offer acceptable worship without godly, reverential fear of our God (Hebrews 12.28-29). Some (many?) in Christendom are of the opinion that the OT preaches fear, but the NT teaches nothing but love. Jesus and the NT writers bid us fear God.

18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

Knowing…your forefathers: here is what prompts that reverential fear: knowledge of redemption. These Christians were slaves of the empty & useless lifestyle passed down to them by their ancestors. But in Christ they have been liberated from those ways. The contrast between how they conduct themselves now versus how they conducted themselves before is drawn. They were ransomed from (Gk ek) or out of the sphere of sinful ways to the sphere of obedience to God. The hereditary chain of sin is broken by Christ’s blood.

We tend to think of the spiritual aspects of redemption (saved from sin), but Peter points out the practical nature of redemption (saved from a former lifestyle). How many people today are caught up in the empty lifestyle passed down to them from the previous generation? How many people today know all too well the futility of their lifestyle? The hereditary chain of partying; the hereditary chain of drinking; the hereditary chain of smoking; the hereditary chain of drug abuse; the hereditary chain of pride; the hereditary chain of anger; the hereditary chain of foul language; the hereditary chain of hatred; the hereditary chain of worthlessness. Christ’s blood and only Christ’s blood can break all these chains. We here know this, just as the 1st century audience knew it: had it not been for God & the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we would still be in bondage to that former futile lifestyle. But God and Christ change lives.

Not with…silver or gold: Silver and gold cannot liberate anyone from spiritual captivity. No physical, earthly object(s) could buy back these people from their former sinful manner of life.

19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

But with…Christ: But is emphatic (Gk alla). The impetus for holy conduct as exiles under empire is the ransom price: Christ’s precious blood. Only Christ’s blood could pay the ransom price.  Unlike gold & silver which will ultimately perish, Christ’ body did not see corruption (cf. Acts 2.31).

Not bling but blood. Not coins but Christ. The blood of Christ is so precious, so valuable to God. We must never take lightly the extreme cost of our redemption. The moment we do is when the evil has opportunity to snatch us away from Christ. To lightly esteem or underestimate the value of Christ’s blood in our redemption is a root of all kinds of evil. It is at the heart of every fallen away Christian. If we truly esteemed Christ’s blood as precious, as supremely valuable, we would never walk away from Him, but cling to Him more closely.

Like that…blemish or spot:  Some see here a Passover connection however it seems better to understand this more broadly since frequently the requirement under the Law was for a lamb “without blemish” (Lev 3.6; 4.32; et al). Christ of course was without sin—pure & undefiled. Thus Christ is the fulfillment of all the sacrifices under the Law. Specifically here, He was sacrificed in our stead to free us from bondage of the former life.

20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

He was foreknown…the world: Before time existed, in eternity, God knew that man would sin & rupture relationship with Him and need to be ransomed. So Christ, the Son, was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13.8). It was the plan before time began.

But was made manifest…you: With the cosmic, eternal foreknowledge of God before them, Peter says that all of the scheme of redemption was “for your sake” (NIV). From the timeless realm of eternity comes the Lamb into human history (time & space) in the last times, i.e. “the end of the ages” (1 Cor 10.11). In light of such a great revelation of God’s Son, live appropriately.

21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Who through Him as believers in God: Through Christ those to whom Peter wrote had become believers, that is they came to put their trust in God. Their faith is based upon historical facts…

Who raised…Him glory: i.e. the resurrection & ascension of Christ by the power of God.

So that…in God: By the resurrection and glorification (exaltation) of Christ, God has a laid a firm foundation upon which the Christian can build his/her faith. Further, he/she can have confident expectation of their own resurrection and glorification someday.

22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Having purified…love: Having purified (perf.) is used here in a spiritual sense to indicate consecration to God’s service. Their souls, i.e. their whole persons, are set apart for service unto God. Purification happens “in obedience to the truth” (NASB) and is for (Gk eis) a sincere (lit. unhypocritical) brotherly love (Gk Philadelphian). So Peter’s focus is on the rationale behind love: they love their siblings because they have purified their souls by obeying the truth.

Peter’s first specific application of his command to live a holy life is for Christians to love one another. This then is the first mark of genuine Christians who are in pursuit of holiness: deep, earnest love for their fellow Christians. This is testimony to the power of the gospel. Even the most hard-hearted individual might have their affections changed dramatically & permanently.

“Love one another” – why this command to these people? Certainly the temptation to just survive with fellow Christians, gathered together & rubbing shoulders like so many marbles in a sack. But that Peter has to command this implies they were a) growing lax in fulfilling this “new command” or b) former relationships with non-Christians were being rekindled. It would have been easy for these persecuted Christians to just fall back into old patterns of life, relapse due to these old connections. How many Christians does this same thing happen? Old relationships with people who know you became a Christian but themselves do not want a part of Christ have dragged many backward. But we have exchanged the flesh for the Spirit! Saved people love other saved people.

Love one another…heart: “As [these Christians] face persecution and distress from without, it is vital that they maintain mutual support from within” (Black & Black 51). Earnestly includes not only intensity but also duration (i.e. without ceasing). A pure heart is a prerequisite for Christian love.

This is all the more reason why our new relationships with fellow Christians must be all more “earnest” and spring from a “pure heart.” This is all the more reason why love must be “unhypocritical,” that is, genuine & without show. This is not a call for Christian glad-handing & hand-patting. Love is not smarmy. This is not a call for “working the crowd” or “pressing the flesh.” Love is not political. This is not a call for self-exaltation – “What would you do without me, brother?” Love does not boast (excessive praise). This certainly is not a call to pretend to love your brother to their face, & then tear them down behind their back to someone else. Real, genuine, sincere love is not duplicitous. “God is love” and He is none of these things.

Genuine Love: Romans 12.9; 2 Cor 6.6. Love from a “pure heart” – that is it is unmixed, i.e. not because of what you can do for me or “what have you done for me lately?” Not because it gives me some benefit or pleasure. Not because you belong to my church. “Even sinners do that!” That’s worldly love, but genuine love from a pure heart is unmixed with worldly love. “Earnest” or fervent – it is hot! “Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of YHWH. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Songs 8.6-7).

23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Since…born again: cf. v.3. Single word in original (perf. Pass.). Christians were born again and stand born of God as His children. Here is perhaps the highest argument for strong love for one another: we are all children of the Father, all born again.

The use of two perfect tense words (“having purified” [v.22] & “having been born again”) is interesting. The first is active; the second is passive. Said another way, the first states what we are able to do, the second what God did. The first goes back to the second. In other words, because God has caused us to be born again, we have been & are purifying our souls by our obedience to His truth.

Not…imperishable: Or “not of mortal seed (i.e. parentage) but of immortal.” The contrast is between natural birth (by a human father) & spiritual birth (by the heavenly Father).

“The seeds are the thoughts of God, the truth of God; and they are seeds out of which the life of holiness must burst and grow” (Caffin 59).

Through the…word of God: It is through His word that God causes people to be born again. The word is identified as “the good news” (v.25). “It is the uniform doctrine of the Scriptures that divine truth is made the instrument of quickening the soul into spiritual life” (Barnes). The word is living and abiding of course because Jesus said “My words will never pass away” (Matt 24.35, et al).

24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,

For…: This introduces the quotation from Isaiah 40.6, 8 as confirmation of what Peter has said.

“All flesh…flower of grass”: All flesh speaks all human beings, mankind. All its glory is a reference to man’s accomplishments, beauty, strength, intelligence, riches, & greatness. Peter says all mankind & all of the greatness of mankind is like grass…the flower of grass. In this comparison, Peter is pointing out the frailty of mankind.

“The grass…falls”:  Lit. “withered the grass, fallen the bloom!” It is emphatic. These earthly, natural elements fade away and perish. So too is human life & glory transitory, given only a certain amount vitality & endurance before it gives out.

We know how brief this life is. It is theme constant in Scripture (James 4.14, et al). When a brother or sister, a loved one, a close friend dies we are reminded yet again by our experience of the transitory nature of this life. Both Scripture & experience affirm what Peter is saying here.

25but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

“But the…forever”: Now the contrast—while everything in the natural world is transitory, the word (Gk rhema) of the Lord (LXX of God) is permanent. The world fades, but the word is fixed. Christians have an eternally abiding nature (2 Pt 1.4) because we have been born again by “the living & abiding word,” the forever-word of God.

“The Word of the Lord Abides Forever” – this world is going out of business. But God’s word is “living & abiding,” that is, it lives and continues to lives. Men & women, like grass & flowers, wither and pass away. But when the eternal word of God is uttered and they hear it with open ears and open heart, eternal life is imparted to the obedient. Everything in this world gives out except the spoken word of God contained in the gospel today.

And this word…preached to you: Word (Gk rhema) is the spoken word of God. It is the “good news” of Zion & Jerusalem (Isa 40.9), fulfilled in Christ, preached to you & imparting life & grace.

1So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

So…: Since you have obeyed the gospel, been born again, & are to love one another…

Put away: Or stop doing what you are used to doing. Same word Paul uses in Ephesians (4.22) in speaking of putting off the old self. Indeed, these Christians have been ransomed from the former lifestyle and in Christ have a new lifestyle to live before their Father & with one another.

All malice: Every bit of hateful feelings toward others is to be abandoned. Malice is a disposition or spirit which holds ill-will & thinks evil of other people. Stop thinking evil of others, esp. siblings.

Malice eats churches alive because it eats too many members alive.

All deceit: Or “guile” (KJV, ASV). This is trickery & treachery, fraud & falsehood. Brethren ought not lie to each other, nor express with their lips what is not in their hearts.

Is it deceitful for us when we greet each other to respond “fine” when life is anything but fine? “How are you?” “Fine.” But you’re really not. Is that a form deceit?  Lenski says deceit is “to mislead other to their own hurt and to our own supposed advantage.”

Hypocrisy:  Lit. hypocrisies (pl). Pretending to be what we are not. The word originally was for stage actors in a play who wore masks & pretended to be someone else. Appearing religious, pious, Christian, when we never intend to truly be such. Plural because there are so many ways to be fake.

Barnes says the hypocrisies are toward both God and man:

hypocrisy to God is, when persons profess that which they have not, as love to God, faith in Christ, zeal for religion, fervent devotion, and sincerity in the worship of God; and do all they do to be seen of men, and appear outwardly righteous, and yet are full of all manner of iniquity: hypocrisy to men is, pretence of friendship, loving in word and tongue only, speaking peaceably with the mouth, but in heart laying wait; a sin to be abhorred and detested by one that is born from above; and is contrary to that integrity, simplicity, and sincerity of heart, which become regenerate persons, the children of God, and brethren one of another:

Envy: Envies (pl). Or “jealousies” (cf. NCV). Hating others because of some advantage (real or imaginary) or possession they have which we do not.

All slander: or “evil speaking” (NKJV).  This all kinds of unkind talk which seeks only to run down someone else. Defamation of character, false accusations, backbiting,

Note; all of these vices are not in keeping with the character of those who have been begotten of God and infused with a new divine nature. Those who have experienced the grace of God must themselves learn to be gracious to others, esp. toward brothers & sisters.

“All these sins aim at harming other people, whereas love seeks the good of others” (Grudem 94). All of these sins likewise will hurt the Christian, hinder his/her growth, and quite possibly jeopardize their salvation unless abandoned immediately. We must take off this robe of many sins

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

Like newborn infants…: Infants would be free from all of the vices mentioned in v.1. As those “born again” by the Father they must “be infants in evil” but mature in their thinking (1 Cor 14.20).

Long for…spiritual milk: Long is an imperative and expresses a desire for something. As they get rid of the impure desires of v.1, they are to “crave” (NIV) for the pure spiritual milk of God. These would be the spiritual truths & doctrines of God which are “without guile” (contrast v.1).  Indeed, “the commandment of YHWH is pure” (Psalm 19.8).

Irenaeus, early church writer, in talking about heretics in his day that they mixed the pure spiritual milk with chalk. How many today do the same thing with the pure, unadulterated gospel of God? They gag & choke on the polluted, theologically shallow gospel!

The milk is “spiritual” (Gk logikon from which we get “logic”) or “reasonable” or “rational.” Hence, all of the sins mentioned in v.1 are unreasonable & irrational behaviors for the child of God. Flee to the reasonable, rational shores of pure love for one another & for God.

That…salvation: Putting away sinful attitudes & practices while filling ourselves up with the love & purity of God & His words is vital for spiritual growth. “The soul which feeds upon the pure milk of the Word [grows] continually unto salvation” (Caffin 69).

3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

If indeed…is good:  Cf. Psalm 34.8. If would better be understood as “for” (RSV) or “since.”  Peter does not doubt these Christians have tasted the goodness & kindness of God. Rather, assuming they have tasted the Lord’s goodness, they will crave even more & fuller tastes.

You know how sometimes you try something which you are not sure you will like. As a kid you are coerced into trying stuff which was unappealing to you with the phrase, “You might like it.” Well, Peter knows that those who taste God’s goodness will like. And having tasted it…mmm…Yes, I would like more please! “The first experiences of the Christian life stimulate God’s people to further efforts” (Caffin 69).

There is some neat word play here: the word for Christ is Christos and the word for good is chrestos. In fact, early church writers like Tertullian adopted the confussion of heathens: Christos chrestos, Christ is good. Indeed, Christians follow the good Christ.