Sunday, August 15, 2010

Commentary on Scripture: 1 Peter

To those who reside as aliens, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

1 Peter 1:1-2 ~~ This is a strong statement of the Trinitarian nature of the Christian faith. It should also be noted that predestination is strongly correlated here to the work of the Trinity.

1 Peter 1:3-4 ~~ “A living hope through the resurrection… to obtain an inheritance… reserved in heaven”: the phraseology indicates a distinction between resurrection (salvation proper) and inheritance (the exaltation mentioned in 5:6).

1 Peter 1:8 ~~ This is a wonderful description of a Christian’s spirit: “joy inexpressible” and “full of glory”

1 Peter 1:9 ~~ “The outcome of your faith” related to qualities listed in 1:8

1 Peter 1:10-12 ~~ The prophets “made careful searches and inquiries” (strong use of reason) and passed along their knowledge (through tradition).

1 Peter 1:12 ~~ The mysteries revealed by the prophets and through the early church are “things into which angels long to look.” Similar to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 6:3, to wit: "Do you not know that you shall judge angels?" Our status and future exaltation so far exceeds the current glory of angels that comparison becomes meaningless.

1 Peter 1:13 ~~ “Prepare minds for action, keep sober, fix hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you by the revelation of Jesus” – firm correlation between grace/salvation and revelation.

1 Peter 1:14 ~~ As “obedient children” we are called to desire God’s will and avoid the “formers lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance.” But if we sin out of ignorance of what God’s will is, how is this command to be filled? Perhaps, as in Romans 2:12, we are judged by our deeds relative to our moral knowledge.

1 Peter 1:18 ~~ We are not redeemed from the “futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” This is interesting, as Peter (traditional head of the Catholic church) seems to disparage or deny tradition. It may be that this verse is also the origin for Christian supersessionism: the doctrine that the relationship of Christ to the Church has supplanted the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant between God and Israel.

1 Peter 1:20 ~~ “For he was foreknown before the foundation of the world.” The doctrine of the Trinity arises here again in conjunction with predestination: God possesses foreknowledge of Christ?

1 Peter 1:22 ~~ Obedience to truth purifies and prepares the soul to love others, and moves it to action.

1 Peter 2:1 ~~ We are called to cast away sins of the heart and the word. Each sin Peter lists corresponds to relational sins, in how we perceive or seek to be perceived in comparison with others. Malice is the most straightforward, the desire to do harm to others. Deceit and hypocrisy are the twin desires to appear differently to oneself and to others, to appear better than reality. Envy is the instinct to despise others for their relative excellence. Slander is the desire to cause others to appear worse than reality.

1 Peter 2:8 ~~ This verse seems to support a Calvinist view of damnation (cf. Exodus 7:4).

1 Peter 2:11 ~~ Our fleshly lusts wage war against the soul.

1 Peter 2:12 ~~ We are called appear excellent to the Gentiles to lead them to God. This theme is often repeated in Galatians and in the other Pauline letters.

1 Peter 2:12-13 ~~ This verse provides a hermeneutic for Peter’s teachings on authority. Despise slanders, we are always called to act with nobility, in a manner worthy of praise.

1 Peter 2:13 ~~ This verse attracts the most attention in the following section, but it functions primarily as an introduction and summary. It clarifies the role and relative nature of sovereignty and authority. It is important to note that “for the Lord’s sake” (for the ultimate purpose of honoring the Lord) is not the same as the frequent mistranslation “as unto the Lord” (as though one were honoring the Lord directly).

1 Peter 2:14 ~~ It is the nature and proper function of government to punish evildoers (this is standard to classical liberal political theory) and to praise those who do right. This latter function is nowhere near so widely recognized.

1 Peter 2:15-16 ~~ We are to silence our critics, not by yielding as though under compulsion or to our rightful sovereignty (that authority is God’s), but by submitting freely, in order to honor God. In short, we are called to freely do our duty.

1 Peter 2:16 ~~ We are to use our freedom in Christ to obey the commands He gives us (cf. Galatians 5).

1 Peter 2:17 ~~ This verse presents a pair of contrasts. We are to honor everyone, while loving our brothers (those in the Christian faith). Likewise, we are to honor authorities on earth, but we are called to fear God.

1 Peter 2:18-19 ~~ To suffer for good deeds with patience is the pinnacle of a virtue.

1 Peter 2:20 ~~ Patience (especially patience through suffering) is designed to amplify good deeds, but it is devalued when the suffering occurs after evil preceding actions.

1 Peter 3:1 ~~ The command to wives follows the passage regarding submission to authority, and Christ’s example of humility. The command is given for the same reason as those that came before: to save the souls of those who observe your good deeds.

1 Peter 3:3-4 ~~ This verse serves as a caution to the preceding command, regarding the observation of others. We are to let them focus on our character, not on the external distractions or appearance. We are to emphasize “the hidden person.”

1 Peter 3:5-6 ~~ Peter cites the example of Sarah and those who make themselves her children, the daughters of God. The next verse clarifies that a daughter of Sarah is one who does what is right without fear. The Christian command of submission is here identified with courage!

1 Peter 3:7 ~~ The command to husbands is primarily a command to be considerate of their wives, especially of any weaknesses. The phrasing is interesting: husbands are to honor her so that their own prayers are not hindered. One could equally say that a husband honors his wife, or else his prayers (and thus his relationship with God) would be impeded.

1 Peter 3:8-9 ~~ The virtues listed here are relational virtues, just as the evils listed in 2:1 are relational evils. To be harmonious is to act as a body, to act for one another, with one purpose. To be sympathetic is to feel as a body and to feel for one another. To be brotherly is to function as a family, to defend and honor one another. To be kindhearted is to forgive and accept one another’s humanity, to be patient and gentle with each other. To be humble in spirit is to accept one’s place within the family. Finally, to return blessing for evil is to love thy neighbor and to turn the other cheek.

1 Peter 3:10-12 ~~ Peter quotes Psalms 34: goodness leads to a good life with the love of God and love of one’s neighbor.

1 Peter 3:13 ~~ “Who is the one who will harm you, if you prove zealous for what is good?”

1 Peter 3:15 ~~ “Always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” In this way, we overcome suffering and sanctify Christ in our hearts.

1 Peter 3:15-16 ~~ If suffering is the will of God, then we are to suffer for a good reason.

1 Peter 3:19-20 ~~ By one interpretation, this verse states that Christ, in the three days following his crucifixion, proclaimed the Gospel to the dead from the antediluvian generations.

1 Peter 3:20 ~~ Here is a unique perspective on the Flood narrative: God in fact exhibited patience, by waiting for Noah to finish the ark before destroying the rest of humanity.

1 Peter 3:21 ~~ Peter compares baptism to the Flood, though not with the usual analogy. It is not the washing away of filth and flesh, but the preserving of the righteousness, that is at the heart of the analogy. It is not the destruction of humanity, but the preservation of Noah and his sons, that baptism reflects: it does not save us nor cleanse us, but appeals to God to preserve our obedience and a clean conscience.

1 Peter 4:3-5 ~~ Peter pointedly states that his audience has already had plenty of time to enjoy the dissolutions of the flesh, the “desires of the Gentiles,” yet they found it lacking and sought God. Old colleagues in such sins may malign these new Christians, but their conducts towards the believers only confirms their conversion to a new life.

1 Peter 4:6 ~~ This verse, like 3:19-20, states that the Gospel was preached to the dead. But see Hebrews 9:27 for a contrasting doctrine, that would seem to contradict this.

1 Peter 4:7 ~~ Eschatology inspires preparedness, in sound judgment and a sober spirit for prayer.

1 Peter 4:8 ~ We are called to love one another, as love covers a multitude of sins. I wonder, whose sins? One’s own sins (our love demonstrates our faith which saves us)? Or the sins of others? If the latter, is this only for Christians, or even for the non-believers towards whom we show love? This fits into a general hierarchical model of salvation, such as that outlined in Ephesians 5. I’ve often wondered about the phenomenon of domesticated animals, and thought that perhaps, as Christ is able to redeem humanity, man is able by resembling Christ to redeem those aspects of nature that surround him. Perhaps this extends to our fellow man: by more closely resembling Christ, we are able to extend His grace to others. Ephesians 5 makes the same point: a husband may extend grace to his wife and family by resembling Christ in his self-sacrifice.

1 Peter 4:9 ~~ Be hospitable to one another – this command seems to go beyond “mere” love, and might perhaps approach pure caritas (the highest form of Godly love).

1 Peter 4:10 ~~ There are two points in this verse: everyone has a special gift from God, and each one is to exercise or employ it as a steward of God’s grace.

1 Peter 4:11 ~~ Whatever we speak or do, we are to act as though the words or deeds carried some measure of God within them: we must speak as though speaking the utterances of God, and serve by the strength God provides.

1 Peter 4:12-14 ~~ We are to rejoice in suffering, that we participate in it with Christ.

1 Peter 4:15-16 ~~ Peter repeats the admonishment to suffer (that’s a given in Peter’s theology), specifically to suffer in the service of the Good.

1 Peter 5:1-4 ~~ Peter speaks to the elders: take your duties voluntarily, not for honor or out of a sense of obligation, but with joy and eagerness, nor with pride in your station but with the humility to lead by example.

1 Peter 5:4 ~~ There is a special glory to those with greater responsibilities (cf. James 3:1).

1 Peter 5:5-11 ~~ Peter speaks to the young men: be humble, and subject to the elders, “that He may exalt you at the proper time” (!) We are to cast our anxieties (including our desire for exaltation) upon Him, and entrust ourselves to His care. This requires the patience to suffer for a little while before this exaltation, in which God shall “perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

1 Peter 5:8-9 ~~ Be alert and resist evil (we are strengthened in our will to stand firm by God). We find encouragement in the ubiquity of our struggles – we are not alone, others endure the same struggles.

1 Peter 5:12 ~~ Here is an interesting parenthetical remark: “Silvanus, our faithful brother (as I consider)....” It seems similar to the phrase “God willing” (which arose from James 4:15), but this saying evidently never caught on. It certainly attests to our ignorance, and our willingness to recognize it in light of God’s omniscience.

Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.