David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
1 Peter 1
1 Peter 1:1-25 - LIVING LIKE YOU ARE BORN AGAIN
A. A greeting from the Apostle Peter.
1. (1 Peter 1:1) The writer and the intended readers of this letter.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
a. Peter was not only an apostle, but there is a sense in which he was the leader of the apostolic group. Peter was an important and an influential man in the early church. This letter would have been received with a sense of importance.
i. “The supreme importance of the apostles is suggested by the fact that the phrase of Jesus Christ is attached to no other New Testament office: we do not read of teachers of Jesus Christ or prophets of Jesus Christ or evangelists of Jesus Christ, only of apostles of Jesus Christ.” (Grudem)
b. To the pilgrims: The idea behind the word pilgrims is of someone who lives as a temporary resident in a foreign land. Pilgrims are sojourners and travelers, and pilgrims live in constant awareness of their true home.
i. The early Christian writing The Epistle to Diognetus gives the idea of what pilgrims are. “They inhabit the lands of their birth, but as temporary residents of it; they take their share of all responsibilities as citizens, and endure all disabilities as aliens. Every foreign land is their native land, and every native land a foreign land . . . they pass their days upon earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.” (Cited in Barclay)
c. To the pilgrims of the Dispersion: Peter is clearly writing to Gentiles (see 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:10, and 1 Peter 4:3). Yet he calls them pilgrims of the Dispersion, a name that was applied to the Jews. He calls them this because he sees the Christians of his day as being “sprinkled” throughout the world as the Jewish people were in the Dispersion.
d. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia: These specific areas were places Christianity had extended to in the first several decades after the beginning of the church. It is probably the route the original courier of Peter’s letter would follow in distributing the letter. This was not written to any one congregation, but intentionally written to all Christians.
2. (1 Peter 1:2) Peter’s description of his readers and all Christians.
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
a. Elect according to the foreknowledge: They are elect. This means simply that they are chosen, chosen by God in a particular and unique sense.
b. Their election is according to the foreknowledge of God. God’s choosing is not random or uninformed, but according to His foreknowledge, which is an aspect of His omniscience. This foreknowledge includes prior knowledge of our response to the gospel, but is not solely dependent on it.
i. Though God’s election is according to . . . foreknowledge, there is more to His foreknowledge than His prior knowledge of my response to Jesus. Election is not election at all if it is only a quid pro quo arrangement between my choosing and God’s.
c. In sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience: An essential result of election is sanctification and obedience. While some would like to think that election has only to do with going to heaven or hell, Peter reminds us that it touches earth also. A claim to be elect is doubtful if there is no evidence of sanctification and obedience.
d. And sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: However, since all the elect fall short of perfect sanctification and obedience, there is cleansing from sin provided for them through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
i. There were only three circumstances in the Old Testament where blood was sprinkled on people. First, at the establishment of a covenant (Exodus 24:5-8). Second, at the ordination of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:21). Finally, in the purification ceremony for a cleansed leper (Leviticus 14:6-7).
ii. The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus on us accomplishes the same things. First, a covenant is formed, then we are ordained as priests to Him, and finally we are cleansed from our corruption and sin. Each one of these things is ours through the work of Jesus on the cross.
e. God the Father . . . the Spirit . . . Jesus Christ: Peter’s effortless way of combining the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our salvation displays the New Testament approach to the Trinity. It is not detailed as a specific doctrine, but woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament.
i. Jesus has a Father, but not in the sense of being higher than He who gave Him existence. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have existed together throughout eternity, and each are equally God. Father and Son are terms used to describe the relationship between these first two members of the Trinity.
f. Grace to you and peace be multiplied: Peter brings a greeting that had become common among the Christians, combining elements from Greek culture (Grace) and Jewish culture (peace).
B. What it means to be saved and to live saved.
1. (1 Peter 1:3-5) Thanks to the Father for His work of salvation.
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.
a. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: When Peter considers the salvation of God, all he can do is praise Him. This is especially because the motive for God’s work is found in Him, not in us (according to His abundant mercy).
b. Has begotten us again: The wording of begotten us again is different from born again (John 3:3), but the meaning is the same. Peter’s idea is that when a person is saved, they are made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
c. To a living hope: We are born again to a living hope, because we have eternal life in a Savior who has conquered death Himself. The hope lives because it is set on an inheritance incorruptible, which can never fade away because it is reserved in heaven. This is a significant contrast to any inheritance on this earth.
d. Incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away: Peter doesn’t really describe our inheritance. All he can tell us is what it is not. What our inheritance actually is, is too great for him to describe.
i. Our inheritance is like the inheritance of Aaron (Numbers 18:20) and the inheritance of the Psalmist (Psalms 16:5-6), which is the gift of God Himself. Since God gives Himself to us now, our inheritance begins here and now.
ii. In speaking with those who don’t know Jesus, we shouldn’t just tell them of the agonies of hell they will experience, but the of the glories of heaven they will miss.
e. Who are kept by the power of God through faith: The promise of our inheritance is certain, because we are kept by the power of God, ensuring that we will endure through faith until the coming of Jesus.
i. We are kept by the power of God, but it is through faith, meaning our faith. The person who is kept is a person abiding in a continuing relationship of faith with God. And we need to be kept! Keeping is not necessary unless there is danger outside and weakness inside.
ii. “To have been told, as in the preceding verse, that our inheritance was reserved in heaven could have yielded us little comfort, unless that assurance had been followed and capped by this, that the heirs also are being kept for its full enjoyment.” (Meyer)
f. We cannot experience this inheritance unless we are born again. It would be like rewarding a blind man by showing him the most beautiful sunset or taking him to an art museum. Unregenerate man does not have the capacity to enjoy this inheritance.
2. (1 Peter 1:6-9) The purpose of trials for those who are saved.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith; the salvation of your souls.
a. In this you greatly rejoice: We especially rejoice in God’s keeping power when we are grieved by various trials, knowing that He will keep us as our faith is tested by fire.
b. Faith . . . tested by fire: Our faith isn’t tested because God doesn’t know how much or what kind of faith we have. It is tested because we often are ignorant of how much or what kind of faith we have. God’s purpose in testing is to display the enduring quality of our faith.
i. Much more precious than gold that perishes: If gold is fit to be tested and purified by fire, how much more our faith, which is far more precious than gold?
ii. Gold is one of the most durable of all materials. But it too will one day perish, but our faith will not.
c. Receiving the end of your faith: The end of your faith is the return of Jesus and the ultimate salvation of your souls. Testing and trials are inevitable as long as we are on this side of the end of your faith. As long as we do not see the God we serve, we must endure through trials, and face them with faith and joy.
i. Whom having not seen you love: Peter knew that though he had seen Jesus, both before and after the resurrection, most every Christian in the early church had not seen Jesus. Yet they loved Him. Jesus was no less real simply because they had not seen Him.
ii. The word translated joy inexpressible “occurs only here in the New Testament, and describes a joy so profound as to be beyond the power of words to express.” (Grudem)
3. (1 Peter 1:10-12) The prior revelation of the salvation experienced by Christians.
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.
a. Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully: It is important to Peter - and all the New Testament writers - to demonstrate that their teaching was no novelty, but that it was testified beforehand by the prophets.
i. The predictions of the sufferings of the Messiah begin with the first prophecy of the Messiah, when God told Eve I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (Genesis 3:15)
b. Prophesied of the grace that would come to you: The prophets of the Old Testament longed to see exactly the grace of the New Covenant to come. Prophesying by the Spirit of Christ, they knew something of His sufferings and glories, but far less than they longed to know.
i. Can you imagine how excited Isaiah would have been to read the Gospel of John? The Old Testament prophets knew so much, yet much was hidden to them, including the character of the Church (Ephesians 3:4-6) and the very essence of life and immortality (2 Timothy 1:10).
c. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering: The prophets understood that they were ministering to people beyond them, as well as to people in their own day. These things the prophets predicted were reported as fact by the apostles (the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel).
i. Because we know the Who (Jesus) and the when (Jesus’ day) of these Old Testament prophecies, they should be of far more interest to us than they were even in the day of the prophets.
d. Things which angels desire to look into: The unfolding of God’s eternal plan is something that angels desire to look into. Angels observe our conduct (1 Corinthians 4:9), making it necessary that Christians conduct themselves properly (1 Corinthians 11:10).
i. Part of God’s eternal purpose is to show His wisdom to the angelic beings through His work with the church (Ephesians 3:10-11). God wants the angels to look in on what He does in the church.
ii. “The longing must therefore include a holy curiosity to watch and delight in the glories of Christ’s kingdom as they find ever fuller realization in their lives of individual Christians throughout the history of the church.” (Grudem)
4. (1 Peter 1:13-17) The conduct of the saved.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
a. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind: Living the way God wants us to means that we must gird up the loins of our mind. The idea in this phrase is of preparing for action, much like our phrase “rolling up your sleeves.” Then, we must also be sober, which means the ability to take a serious look at life.
b. Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ: Peter has told us a lot about God’s grace. He greeted us with grace (1 Peter 1:2). He told us of the grace that came to us in Jesus, predicted by the prophets of old (1 Peter 1:10). Now he goes further, writing of the grace that is to be brought to you when Jesus comes back. The only way we will be able to stand before Jesus on that day is because of the unmerited favor He gives and will give to us.
i. Grace isn’t just for the past, when we first gave our lives to Jesus. It isn’t only for the present, where we live each moment standing in His grace (Romans 5:2). It is also for the future, when grace will be brought to us. God has only just begun to show us the riches of His grace!
ii. “Grace is the unmerited love of God, stooping to save and bless; the source of all those bright and holy gifts which come from his infinite heart.” (Meyer)
c. As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance: Fulfilling God’s call to holiness requires that we, as obedient children, break off with the lifestyle of the world (characterized by lusts and ignorance).
d. But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy”: The main idea behind holiness is not moral purity but it is the idea of “apartness.” The idea is that God is separate, different from His creation, both in His essential nature and in the perfection of His attributes. But instead of building a wall around His apartness, God calls us to come to Him and share His apartness. He says to us, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
i. When we refuse to see God’s apartness, we begin to believe that He is just a “super-man.” Then we don’t see that His love is a holy love, His justice is a holy justice, and so on with all of His attributes. Holiness is not so much something we possess, as it is something that possesses us.
e. And if you call on the Father: If we, as Christians, call on a holy God (presumably for help), we must understand we call on a God who shows no partiality - and will so judge our conduct, making a working, sober, holy walk all the more important.
5. (1 Peter 1:18-21) The motivation for godly living.
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
a. Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things: The high call for godly living makes sense in light of the price that was paid for our redemption. We weren’t saved by the precious blood of Jesus to then live as if we were garbage.
b. From your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers: Peter describes a justification by law way of thinking as aimless conduct. It seems to have an aim - gaining merit before God by works - but it is in fact aimless because it cannot succeed.
c. A lamb without blemish and without spot: Peter here speaks to the completely sinless character of Jesus. If He were not without blemish and without spot, He could not have been qualified to be our Redeemer.
d. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world: The work of Jesus was not a plan developed late in the course of redemption. It was foreordained before the foundation of the world, though it was made evident in these last times.
e. For you who through Him believe in God: The entire plan of redemption is for those who believe in God, though even their belief is through Him. Those who believe in God are not disappointed, because their faith and hope has been substantiated by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
6. (1 Peter 1:22-25) The necessity for love among the saved.
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.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
a. Love one another fervently: Holy living is incomplete if it isn’t accompanied by love. To be a Christian means to have a sincere love of the brethren, but we are encouraged to exercise that love fervently.
b. Love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again: Such love is only possible (and only to be expected) of those who have been born again by the eternal word of God.
i. Again, Peter does not use the same wording for born again as is found in John 3:1-36. But he does use the exact same idea.
c. Through the word of God which lives and abides forever: We are born again . . . through the word of God. But it doesn’t only give us new life. It also tells us to love one another. If the word of God is as Isaiah 40:8 says it is - the word of the Lord which endures forever, then we are both obligated by it, and empowered by it, to live out the kind of love and holiness Peter speaks of.
d. Through the word of God . . . Now this is the word: Some people try to draw a sharp distinction between the two Greek words most often translated word, which are the ancient Greek words rhema and logos. But here, Peter uses both words (logos in 1 Peter 1:23 and rhema in 1 Peter 1:25) to refer to the exact same idea. The two words sometimes have subtle differences, but not significant differences.
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