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The First and Second Epistles of Peter
Encounters with God
By Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, Thomas Blackaby, Melvin Blackaby, Norman Blackaby
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Henry Blackaby, Th.M., D.D. Richard Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Thomas Blackaby, M.Div., D.Min. Melvin Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Norman Blackaby, M.Div., B.L., Ph.D.
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RECIPIENTS OF A HEAVENLY INHERITANCE
Inheritance: the wealth, property, or title of an ancestor, received when the ancestor dies
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time....
Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into (1 Pet. 1:3–5, 10–12).
In all of the New Testament there are few passages that present more of the great fundamental Christian ideas in so few words. The passage begins with a doxology—a praise statement to God. This statement, however, is distinctly different from the traditional doxology of the Jews: "Blessed art thou, O God." The Christian doxology addresses God as Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter did not offer praise to a distant, unknown God, but to a God who can be identified and readily approached.
The phrase "begotten us again" refers to spiritual rebirth or what many Christians today call being "born again" or "the salvation experience." Peter made several strong statements about what it means to be spiritually reborn:
spiritual rebirth is an act of God, according to His will. It is not achieved by man. Rather, it is the work of the Spirit as a person yields himself to the Spirit.
spiritual rebirth happens through the creative word of God in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:23). Those who hear the good news of Jesus' atoning sacrifice, and believe He is the Son of God who died for the sins of mankind, are enabled to believe and receive by faith a newness of life.
the spiritually reborn person has a "living hope," which has the Resurrection of Christ Jesus as its evidence. The Christian is linked to eternal life because the spiritual rebirth is something created from incorruptible seed—it is from the eternal realm of the Spirit.
the spiritually reborn person enters into a great inheritance. The word used here in the Greek, kleronomia, is a word used regularly in the Greek Old Testament for the inheritance of Canaan as the promised land. This type of inheritance refers to something that will certainly be possessed fully in the future.
Peter noted that the inheritance of the Christian is imperishable: it cannot be taken over by any invading army. It is also undefilable: it cannot be polluted by the surrounding society. And, it is unfading: the joy of it does not diminish over time. These three attributes of the inheritance had special meaning to the early church as it faced persecution. Nothing, Peter declared to them, can destroy what Christ has secured for you, not even the full power of Rome. Nothing can defile you, no matter how hideous a death you may face for your faith. Heaven declares you clean. Nothing can take away your joy unless you allow it to do so.
To more fully grasp what Peter was saying, consider what the lost person does not have.
The unsaved sinner does not have forgiveness of sin, does not have a real hope of eternal life after death, does not have the abiding and regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, and does not have the certain hope of heavenly inheritance. The unsaved person is prone to the whims of the age in which he lives and the vagrancies of the culture around him. He is readily polluted in his thinking and emotions by the sins prevalent in his society. He has only fleeting happiness rather than a wellspring of unending joy.
The prophets longed for spiritual rebirth, Peter declared. The angels are mystified by it and would like to know more about it. There is no higher privilege than to have heard the gospel message, believed it, and received Jesus as Savior. There is no greater joy than to follow Him as Lord.
Nothing is as amazing as spiritual rebirth! We must never take it for granted. We must never cease to give it highest value!
Application for Today
"Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?" a woman rather matter-of-factly asked a coworker with whom she was dining at a restaurant. Both women worked as analysts for an investments brokerage firm in a large city. The two had been discussing the importance of having meaningful relationships in one's life and how difficult such relationships were to achieve in a large fast-paced city and in a lifestyle that, for them at least, seemed highly work-oriented. The transition to bringing up a relationship with Jesus had seemed a natural extension of that topic.
"Oh, there's nothing in religion for me," her coworker said.
"I didn't say religion," the woman replied. "I don't consider myself to be extremely religious. I was just curious as to whether you have a relationship with Jesus Christ."
"I doubt there's anything in that for me, either," replied the coworker with a tinge of sarcasm to her voice.
"I once thought that," the woman said, "but then I established a relationship with Jesus, and it has turned out to be the most satisfying and meaningful relationship I've ever had."
The coworker was silent.
"I realize you probably think I'm trying to cram my faith down your throat," the woman said, "but I'm not. We've been talking about relationships and how they are a matter of giving and receiving. Given our jobs in the brokerage business, we have been using terms like 'return on investment.' Well, my relationship with Jesus is the relationship that has given me the greatest 'return on investment' I've ever received."
"How so?" the coworker asked.
The woman replied: "I invested simple and sincere belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins. I asked God to forgive the sins that had been standing between us and to establish a reconciled relationship with me. In return, I got forgiveness of sins, a feeling of being amazingly clean on the inside, a deep assurance that I will live with God for all eternity, a joy and peace in my heart that is beyond explanation, a sense that God is with me every day helping me make wise decisions and choices, and a feeling of love that goes all the way to the core of my being, even if nobody else on the earth cares. There's really no calculating the rate of return because what fraction of eternity is time, what fraction of infinity is this present reality, what fraction of God's love could my love possibly be?"
If you had been this woman's coworker, how would you have responded?
What is your evaluation of this woman's approach in presenting Christ to a coworker?
How do you present Jesus Christ to those you encounter who are not in relationship with Him?
Is there an aspect of your work environment or job description that might allow you to open a conversation about Jesus in a unique way?
Supplementary Scriptures to Consider
Peter also said this about our inheritance:
All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For
"He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (1 Pet. 3:8-12).
Peter believed in an eternal inheritance of everlasting life and a home in heaven that comes to all who accept Jesus as Savior. He also believed in an inheritance of rewards that would be granted according to faithful service. How do you respond to each of these admonitions of Peter that are related to an inheritance of blessing:
Be of one mind:
Have compassion for one another:
Love as brothers:
Do not return evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing:
To what extent, if any, are these Christlike behaviors contingent on the other person's willingness to participate in the relationship or receive what you give?
What does it mean to you to "seek peace and pursueit"? (Note: Peace refers to genuine wholeness and reconciliation, not merely the absence of conflict or war.) How do you practically go about seeking reconciliation with those with whom you have disagreements or differences of opinion? How to you actively pursue reconciliation with those who have become estranged from you?
What do you do if you desire reconciliation but the other person rejects reconciliation?
Peter also wrote these words about the incorruptible nature of spiritual rebirth:
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because
"All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever" (1 Pet. 1:22–25).
Words are generally fleeting and transient. Spoken words, especially, seem to evaporate into the air in which they are uttered. Yet this passage in Peter says something very different about the "word of God" and the "word of the Lord." Note that Jesus was described in the Gospel of John as the Word (John 1:1–4), "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.") What does it mean to you for the Word of God—Jesus Christ—to live and abide forever?
What does it mean for the word that indwells you to last forever? What happens to a person who builds their life upon the word of God? What about the word prepares them for eternity? How does the word become inseparably embedded in a person's spirit?
How do you define the concept "incorruptible seed" in everyday terms?
According to this passage, what are the prerequisites for a person to live forever and not live as the grass of the field, which is here today and gone tomorrow?
Introspection and Implications
1. With what terms do you describe your spiritual inheritance?
2. In what ways is it difficult for a person to believe for a great and glorious eternity when the present is marked by suffering and trouble? Is it easier to believe for a wonderful eternity than to believe for a wonderful tomorrow?
3. Peter quoted a passage from Psalm 34 that says, in effect, "If you want to love your life and experience good days, don't speak evil." Describe in practical terms what this means to you as you follow Jesus day by day.
4. Do you have a sense of deep gratitude for your salvation? How do you express that gratitude to the Lord? To other people?
Communicating the Good News
How do you explain the concept of spiritual rebirth to a person who does not know Christ Jesus as their Savior?CHAPTER 2
TESTED BY FIERY TRIALS
Fiery Trials: a painful experience intended to determine the performance, quality, and usefulness of a person
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter....
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:12–16, 19).
Most of us do all we can to avoid times of trouble or suffering! The truth, however, is that Christians have always been persecuted through the ages, to greater and lesser degrees and in a variety of ways. Peter's words were doubly potent in that a number of Christians at the time of his letters were being openly burned alive.
The Jewish Christians perhaps had a better understanding of suffering than the Gentiles since Jews have always been the most persecuted people on the earth. Peter wrote plainly to the early church: persecution is inevitable. It is not a matter of if a person will be persecuted, but when, how, and where. It is more likely that a person will be persecuted than not persecuted. The important issue is how a Christian faces persecution.
Persecution continues today. Researchers recently reported that of the nearly two billion Christians alive today, one in ten is experiencing significant persecution for his or her faith. Why? To a great extent, people are resistant to and highly suspicious of change that may upset their social standing, political power, or economic status. Christianity is perceived to be a threat to all three: it challenges the way people get and spend money it confronts those who misuse power, proclaims a higher authority than earthly kings, and it demands that social barriers be removed when it comes to a person's standing before God.
Peter gave this response to persecution: rejoice in it! Peter believed strongly that a particular type of glory rested upon the person who suffered. He likened it to the Shekinah, the luminous glow of the presence of God that settled upon Mount Sinai and later filled the tabernacle (Ex. 16:7; 29:43). The persecuted person shares in that glory, but the greater purpose is to reflect glory to God. In other words, if a Christian has to suffer for Christ, he must do so in a way that his suffering brings greater glory—honor and exaltation—to God. A Christian must not think that his suffering for any form of wrongdoing is genuine godly suffering worthy of a God-given reward. To the contrary! Only suffering for the cause of one's belief in Christ Jesus warrants God's reward. Note that among the forms mentioned of non-qualifying wrongdoing are murder, stealing, acting in an evil way toward others, and being a "busybody"! Each of these forms of behavior destroys others and the church to some degree, whether in numbers of members or its appeal to sinners, its integrity, and the morale among believers.
What should Christians do when they face persecution for Christ? Refuse to be ashamed of Christ, give even greater witness to the glory and love of God, and make a renewed commitment in their hearts and minds to do good in the name of Christ.
Are you facing persecution today?
Do you believe persecution will increase or decrease for Christians in the days ahead?
How do you respond to your persecutors? What does it mean to you to give God glory in suffering?
Excerpted from The First and Second Epistles of Peter by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, Thomas Blackaby, Melvin Blackaby, Norman Blackaby. Copyright © 2008 Henry Blackaby, Th.M., D.D. Richard Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Thomas Blackaby, M.Div., D.Min. Melvin Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Norman Blackaby, M.Div., B.L., Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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