SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2019:
“FAITH THAT IS FOCUSED”
(THE ISSL CURRICULUM)
- Lesson: I Peter 1:13-25;
- Time of Action: 63 A.D.;
- Place of Action: Peter writes from “Babylon,” most likely a reference to Rome
Golden Text: “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (I Peter 1:14-15).
I. INTRODUCTION. There are few people who better illustrate the transforming power of Jesus Christ in a life than Peter. In the New Testament we see Peter’s progression. In the Gospels we see him as an impetuous mercurial personality who ended up denying that he even knew the Lord. In Acts he becomes an imperfect yet dynamic preacher and leader of the early church. Finally, in his epistles we see a wise and gentle shepherd of his flock as he conveys God’s truth through the prism of his hard-earned experience. Peter had grown in holiness over the years, and he set before his flock its importance. He had experienced God’s grace in powerful ways, and what stands out in Peter’s teaching is how holiness should flow not out of grudging obligations, but rather out of a heart of gratitude. Holiness is not a dreary thing, but an experience of joy.
II. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON. Peter was probably in Rome when the great persecution under Emperor Nero began (eventually Peter was executed during this persecution). Throughout the Roman Empire, Christians were being tortured and killed for their faith, and the church in Jerusalem was being scattered throughout the Mediterranean world. In this personal letter, Peter wrote to the church scattered and suffering for their faith, giving comfort and hope, and urging continual loyalty to Christ. He begins by thanking God for salvation (see I Peter 1:2-6), and explains to his readers that trials will refine their faith (see I Peter 1:7-9). The apostle exhorted his readers to continue to believe in spite of their circumstances; for many in past ages believed in God’s plan of salvation, even the prophets of old who wrote about it but didn’t understand it. But now salvation has been revealed in Jesus Christ (see I Peter 1:10-12). This is where our lesson begins.
III. FOCUSING ON OUR MINDS (I Peter 1:13-16)
A. Our preparation for holy living (I Peter 1:13-14).
1. (vs. 13). Our first verse says, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ...” Peter was addressing believers who were suffering for their faith. The trials they were undergoing would ultimately prove beneficial (see I Peter 1:7), but they were not easy. So Peter said, “Wherefore,” or in light of this, Peter’s readers needed to take action to bear up and grow in their faith. So he told them to do three things. First, he said “gird up the loins of your mind.” This admonition to “gird up the loins” is taken from the long, gown-like shirt that a man wore in first century Israel. This garment reached to the knees or ankles. When a man was about to undertake a task, he would gather the lower end of this garment and put it under his belt so that he was able to move around more freely. The expression “gird up the loins” was used in the sense of preparing to do some kind of work. In the same way, Peter said that believers are to prepare our minds for action in Christ’s service (see Matthew 24:45-51). Simply put, we are to clear away anything that would hinder us from pursuing holiness. One way we can do that is to “be sober.” The word “sober” is often used to describe those who are not drunk with alcohol, but here it has the broader meaning of being self-controlled in all areas of life. We need to be aware of the importance of being spiritually alert. By living prepared, self-controlled lives, Peter said that we will have “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This simply means that we have the “hope” of eternal life that will be finally realized at the “revelation” of “Jesus Christ” which is a reference to the coming of our Lord. The Greek word translated “revelation” is apokalupsis and literally means an unveiling or revealing. This is where we get our English word apocalypse which means “any remarkable revelation.” Of course the believer’s “hope” is not wishful thinking that something might happen, instead it is a sure expectation grounded securely in God’s promises and power. The believer’s “hope” or sure expectation is that one day “at the revelation (or return) of Jesus Christ” we will receive the full measure of “grace” in Christ. We have already been blessed abundantly with God’s “grace” by Jesus’ redeeming sacrificial death. Just imagine the tremendous “grace” we will receive when Jesus returns and catches all believers up to be with Him forever (see I Thessalonians 4:13-17). Now that’s “grace!”
2. (vs. 14). This verse says “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance...” To be prepared for the return of Jesus Christ, Peter said we must live “As obedient children.” As God’s “children” we must assume a position of humble and dependent obedience toward Him. A member of God’s family should not live as though he or she belongs to the world which includes accepting the wrongs of the world. This brings dishonor to our Father. Living in obedience to God means “not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.” The words “not fashioning” means “not conforming to something.” The phrase “the former lusts in your ignorance” indicates that most of Peter’s readers were Gentile converts from paganism which he referred to as their “former lusts” or worldly desires. At one time they had lived “in…ignorance” not knowing anything about the God of Scripture and lived “fashioning” or conforming their lives according to the world’s ways. But now that they were saved and knew the God of Scripture through experience, these readers were not to return to their “former lusts” that ruled their lives before they knew God (see I Peter 4:3).
B. Our motivation for holy living (I Peter 1:15-16).
1. (vs. 15). This verse says “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation...” Instead of conforming themselves to their previous lifestyles and following the example of the world, believers are to grow in godliness, so Peter said “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” The Greek word translated “holy” has the idea of being separated from sin and consecrated to God. The word “holy” is related to the words “sanctify” and “saint” and refers to being separate from, or different. When used of God, it speaks of His separation or being different from the world. Paul said that since God, who called us is “holy” and totally different from the world, so we ought to “be holy in all manner of conversation.” The word “conversation” means more than just our speech. It refers to our entire conduct or behavior. It is who we really are. We are to “be holy” or set apart from the world for God’s service. We demonstrate that we are different from the world by living a pure life, increasingly free from the evil patterns of this world. Note: Holiness demands moral purity. God’s actions are pure and righteous (see Ezra 9:15), so as His people, our actions and motives are to be pure and righteous so that they cannot be questioned by others. Israel was not to be like other nations which lived wickedly (II Samuel 7:23; Ezra 9:2), and neither are we. Like Israel was to be “holy” or set apart from the world and unto God, so must believers today “be holy” (see I Peter 2:9). If we want to approach our “holy” God, we must have “clean hands and a pure heart” (see Psalms 24:3-4). This two-fold cleanliness is shown by our right attitudes and actions—our whole behavior.
2. (vs. 16). This verse says “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” For the believer there is no stronger evidence or motivation for our actions or behavior than the Scriptures. Peter said “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” The apostle was saying that we are to be “holy” because the Bible commands it for “it is written.” Peter could have been repeating any of a number of Old Testament passages found in Leviticus (see Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7). God’s command to “Be ye holy; for I am holy” reveals His expectations for all Israel and how He had separated them when He said “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine” (Leviticus 20:26). Like Israel, God desires that all believers “be ye holy” and separated from the world and unto Him (see II Corinthians 6:14-18).
IV. FOCUSING ON OUR FAITH (I Peter 1:17-21)
A. God as our Judge (I Peter 1:17). This verse says “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear...” A clearer translation of this verse would be “If you own the great God as a Father and a Judge, you ought to live the time of your sojourning here in his fear.” Peter had no doubt that his readers would “call on the Father” in prayer. But they also needed to be reminded that He is also our Judge and is “without respect of persons” meaning that He has no favorites when He judges. He always “judgeth according to every man’s work.” The God we serve is not moved by a person’s wealth or status in this world (see Acts 10:34). He will judge us according to what we have done with what He has given us (see Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:13-15; II Corinthians 5:10). The judgment of God will be “without respect of persons,” but “according to every man’s work.” No special relationship to God will protect anyone; the Jew may call God Father and Abraham father, but they will not get any special treatment at the judgment of saints. God will not respect or favor any persons, nor their causes, but will judge them according to their “work” or deeds. Since we all will stand before God in judgment, Peter urged his readers to “pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.” In other words, knowing that God, our Father plays no favorites and will judge us all according to the deeds we have done, we must spend the time that we are here on earth having a healthy, reverent “fear” of God, respecting His greatness and righteousness. Earth is not our home. We are all “sojourning” here, that is we are traveling as in a foreign land on this earth while we head for our true heavenly home. Knowing this should help us live here on earth with the proper attitude and behavior. Note: The judgment that is mentioned here refers to the believer’s works, not his or her sins. Our sins have been forgiven and atoned for and are remembered no more forever (see Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14-18). But every work or deed must be judged (see Matthew 12:36: Romans 14:10; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:24-25). The result of the believer’s judgment will be rewards or lost of rewards, but the believer “himself shall be saved” (see I Corinthians 3:11-15). This judgment of believers will take place at the return of Jesus Christ for His church, or what is known as the rapture (see I Corinthians 4:4-5; II Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 22:12). Non-Jews or Gentiles who are still lost after the Great Tribulation will be judged when Jesus returns and sets foot on the earth (see Zechariah 14:4; Matthew 25:31-46). However, the wicked dead of all ages will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment (see Revelation 20:11-15).
B. God as our Redeemer (I Peter 1:18-19).
1. (vs. 18). This verse says “For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers...” In addition to living for God because we know that we shall face judgment, Peter also added another reason why we should live for God and heavenly joys. He said “For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold.” In other words, we should live for God and heavenly joys because the world’s goods had nothing to do with our salvation. “Corruptible” things are those things that will decay and die away. All the gold in the world could not “redeem” or purchase our deliverance from sin, or make our lives worthwhile. Before God undertook to save us, we lived a “vain” or empty existence. Our “conversation” or the way we lived had no lasting value. The phrase “your vain conversation” refers to the believers’ former conduct and lifestyle prior to obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter said that what his readers knew about truth and morality before they were saved was “received by tradition from your fathers.” The people Peter was writing to, including us, before they were “redeemed” had lived according to the culture they had grown up in which was based mostly on traditions. Note: Peter used the language of the slave market in ancient times to describe redemption. A slave was “redeemed” when someone paid money to buy his or her freedom. In a very real sense, before we are saved, we were slaves to sin and needed to be set free. When it comes to the redemption of Christians from sin, there are three tenses to sin: past, present and future. In our past, when we received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, we were “redeemed” from the “penalty of sin” (see Romans 4:8). We will no longer be judged for our sins, but we may lose rewards for our deeds. In the present, we are being redeemed from the “power of sin.” As a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, sin no longer has dominion over us (see Romans 6:1-14. In other words, we don’t have to sin because in Jesus Christ sin has no power over us. And finally, in the future when we are caught up to be with Christ, we will be redeemed from the very “presence of sin.” In other words, sin will no longer exist!
2. (vs. 19). This verse says “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot...” Instead of being redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold, Peter said his readers were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ.” What was given for us was the very life of Jesus on earth. Our redemption came about at a great cost to God. The price was the “blood of Jesus Christ,” God’s only begotten Son (see John 3:16) which was violently shed at His death. Christ’s “blood” is “precious” because the sacrificial work that it represents accomplished what the so-called precious things of the world like gold and silver could never do—purchase eternal life and freedom from the guilt of sin. The words “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” is a reference to the Mosaic covenant that called for “blood” sacrifices of unblemished lambs. But they could not ultimately atone or remove man’s sins. The “lamb without blemish and without spot” according to the law was to be offered as a sacrifice to cover the sin of an Israelite (see Psalms 32:1; 85:2). This sacrifice was instituted at the first Passover in Egypt (see Exodus 12:1-6) and pointed to the future sacrifice of the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
C. God as our hope (I Peter 1:20-21).
1. (vs. 20). This verse says “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…” Still talking about Jesus and His sacrifice, Peter went on to say “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” Of course the word “Who” refers to Jesus Christ. The word “foreordained” can be translated as “foreknown.” It is the Greek word prognosko, which has been carried over into English and means a “forecast” or “prediction.” The phrase “Who verily was foreordained” means that God didn’t simply predict our redemption, He planned it! Our redemption from sin was not an afterthought in the mind of God or a sudden event in history. “Before the foundation of the world” means that it was God’s plan from eternity past to send His Son to redeem fallen mankind. God did this “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (see Ephesians 1: 4-12). Although God had planned to send Jesus to redeem us “before the foundation of the world,” Peter also said “but (Jesus) was manifest in these last times for you.” The word “manifest” here means revealed. The expression “these last times” refers to the age after Jesus’ first coming or the present church age. Peter was reminding his readers that even though it was God’s plan to send Jesus before the world was created, He had been “manifested” or revealed “for you” during their current time. We are now living in “these last times” waiting and expecting the second coming of Jesus Christ. It should be noted that the words “in the last time” in I Peter 1:6, appear to refer to Jesus’ second coming and not His first coming during the church age as this verse indicates. Note: Peter, like the other New Testament writers realized that the Hebrew prophets spoke of two comings of Jesus Christ. The first coming provided a sacrifice for sin; the second coming will bring final redemption to the saved and judgment to the lost (see Hebrews 9:28).
2. (vs. 21). This verse says “Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” The word “Who” refers back to Peter’s readers mentioned in the previous verse when he said “for you.” Not only was Christ manifested for Peter’s readers, they also “by him do believe in God.” In other words, it is “by Him” or through Jesus Christ that all believers come into relationship with God. No one can come to God or even know Him without knowing Jesus Christ (see John 14:6-7). Peter said that we “believe in God” because He demonstrated His power when He “raised him (Jesus) up from the dead.” There is no doubt that God “raised” Jesus “up from the dead” because He appeared to many witnesses after His resurrection (see I Corinthians 15:2-8), and then ascended into heaven to be with His Father (see Acts 1:8-11). The same power that “raised” Jesus is also at work in us (see Ephesians 1:19-20). After His resurrection, God “gave him (Jesus) glory” when Jesus took His rightful place at the Father’s side as our High Priest (see Acts 2:34; Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3; 4:14; 7:26).
V. FOCUSING ON OUR LOVE (I Peter 1:22-25)
A. Loving others (I Peter 1:22). This verse says “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…” Having declared that his readers “believe in God” (see verse 21), Peter now says “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” This means that when we were saved, we were “purified” or sanctified and set apart to God. This purification or sanctification of our “souls” came as a result of our “obeying the truth (the gospel) through the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in our hearts gives us the faith to believe and also empowers us to have “unfeigned love of the brethren.” The word “unfeigned” can mean genuine. It refers to sincerity. Because of the Holy Spirit’s work in us we can genuinely “love…the brethren.” We don’t have to fake it. Because the Holy Spirit empowers us (see Galatians 5:22) to have “unfeigned love of the brethren,” Peter urged his readers to “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” This means that we are to “love one another” wholeheartedly always unselfishly seeking the best for one another.
B. Living for eternity (I Peter 1:23-25).
1. (vs. 23). This verse says “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Another reason Peter gave his readers for living a life devoted to God was that they were “born again” or “born” into a new life (see John 3:1-3). They were now saved; old things had passed away, and all things have become new (see II Corinthians 5:17). They have moved from the natural man to the spiritual man (see I Corinthians 2:14-15). Like Peter’s readers, we were not “born again” or saved with “corruptible seed” or “seed” that will perish and won’t last. We were saved by “incorruptible seed” that will last forever. Peter identified this “incorruptible seed” as “the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Note: God’s Word, the Bible is an awesome force. He spoke the worlds into existence. Jesus Himself is called the Word (see John 1:1-2), and the written “Word of God” is the powerful sword of the Spirit that can bring about new life (see Ephesians 6:17). When we obeyed the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we were born again by the seed of God’s Word (see James 1:18); which will never perish but is living and enduring. The seed of God’s Word is completely different from all that is earthly, for the seeds of men and nature are perishable. God’s Word is permanent. The empowering and transforming benefits of believing the Word will never be annulled or end.
2. (vs. 24). This verse says “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away…” The apostle, having given an account of the renewed spiritual man as born again, not of corruptible but incorruptible seed, now sets before us the vanity of the natural man. To drive his point home, Peter quoted from Isaiah 40:6-8 saying “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.” Peter’s point is that our natural lives will fade as “grass” does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a “flower” that soon droops and falls. Man, in his utmost “glory,” is still a withering, fading, dying creature. When men are born they are just like “grass” (see Job 14:1-2). If we take man in all his “glory,” even his “glory” is “as the flower of grass.” Man’s wit, beauty, strength, vigor, wealth, and honour are all but as “the flower of grass,” which soon withers and dies away. In Peter’s day, the Roman Empire must have seemed like it would last forever. But all earthly power is as lasting as the grass of the field and the wildflowers that might bloom for a couple of weeks (see James 4:14). All the pomp and circumstance of the world as Isaiah so poetically put it will fade away.
3. (vs. 25). Our final verse says “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” To contrast the lasting power of God’s Word when compared to all the pomp and circumstance of the world that will soon fade away, Peter said “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” The only way that perishing mankind can become incorruptible is for him or her to receive the “Word of the Lord;” for it is everlasting truth, and if received, it will preserve a man or woman to everlasting life, and abide with him or her “forever.” Peter concludes by saying “And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” A holy man or woman walks with the right priorities in view. They will concentrate on the message of “the gospel,” that is, the good news of God’s regenerating work. “The gospel” is “the word” from God that brings change and hope to all who believe. So Paul declared that “this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” The prophets and apostles preached the same doctrine. This “word” of salvation which Isaiah and others delivered in the Old Testament is the same which the apostles preached in the New Testament (see Isaiah 61:1-3; I Peter 4:6; Jude 3). The basis for salvation is the same in every age: God’s grace (see Genesis 6:7-8). Remember, the term “gospel” means good news and the good news is that we are saved by God’s grace (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
VI. Conclusion. God is set apart from sin and impurity, and He calls believers to be set apart from sin and impurity and set apart to Him. Believers should want to be holy people. In order to become holy as Jesus is holy, we have to take some very specific steps in this sinful world. When we grow daily in the Word, it will transform our lives, for we will experience the life of God (see Galatians 2:20). This week’s lesson has taught us that our faith should be focused on living a holy life.
***The International Sunday School Lesson Curriculum***