Category Archives: 1 Peter

Introduction to 1 Peter

Prepared by Spencer D. Gear PhD[1]

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1.   INTRODUCTION

Have you witnessed to people about your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and experienced these kinds of reactions? “I don’t want to listen to that nonsense. You’ve got to be joking. Just take a look at all those religious paedophiles who have sexually abused children placed in their trust. Especially after the Royal Commission into sexual abuse,” OR

clip_image002 “Christian! Huh! Hypocrites, that’s all they are. Remember Jimmy Swaggart and his prostitute? Jim Bakker, high flying TV evangelist jailed for 45 years for fraud – and of course, there was adultery by that person? Don’t mention the church to me.” OR

clip_image002[1] How can I believe in your God of love with so much evil in the world? Hitler and your God allowed all that! Saddam Hussein & what he did to Iraq.

In the language of some of the kids I counselled in the 17 years before I retired, “Life sucks.” You may get to the point of asking yourself, “Is it worth it? I should chuck this in.”

For those who are tempted to chuck it in, this Book of I Peter has some profound things to teach, to encourage you to keep on keeping on, and NOT to give up when the going gets tough.

Before we examine this wonderful encouragement, we need to note:

2. SOME THINGS ABOUT THE BOOK OF 1 PETER [2]

clip_image003First verse, it claims to be from “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). Sounds pretty straight-forward. Peter the Apostle wrote it. Yet some liberal scholars promote the view “that First Peter is a pseudonymous [false] work of the post-Apostolic Age . . . [Peter] could not have written the letter.”[3] Why do they claim this is not the apostle Peter who wrote, but a person who falsely used the name of Peter? Because these scholars want us to believe that the “persecutions mentioned in the book” are “those of the reign of [Roman Emperor] Trajan (ca. AD 98-117).”[4]

clip_image003[1]If we make the writing as late as during the reign of Trajan, it would be 70-90 years after the death of Christ and Peter could not have written the book, as he was probably dead and gone. Then somebody from the early church, not the real Peter, wrote the book, and claimed he was Peter.

clip_image003[2]NO, NO, NO! This Peter, 1 Peter 5:1 says, was the one who was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” This is no fake Peter, but the apostle Peter, who was Christ’s apostle, denied him 3 times, and was there as an eyewitness of Christ’s death. Why do these liberal theologians invent such things? Here is a link to the non-canonical, apocryphal Gospel of Peter (Raymond Brown translation).

clip_image003[3]In 1 Peter 5:12, he wrote it “with the help of Silas/Silvanus . . . a faithful brother.” This is probably the Silas of Acts 15:22; 1 Thess. 1:1;

clip_image003[4]When was this book written? If you read 2 Peter 3:1, it speaks of “This is now my second letter to you.” Perhaps this is referring back to 1 Peter as the first letter. There’s a writing from the early church called I Clement (5:4-7), written by Clement of Rome to the Corinthian church, written about A.D. 96.[5] It speaks of Peter and Paul suffering persecution.[6]

clip_image003[5]http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/e-catena/ church fathers allusions.

clip_image003[6]Why could these early church fathers not give us a chapter and verse from 1 Peter? Why did they simply refer to the content without any mention of which verse it appeared in?

There’s a simple reason. What could it be?

3. THEMES [7]

Although 1 Peter is a short letter, it touches on various doctrines and has much to say about Christian life and duties. It is not surprising that different readers have found it to have different principal themes. For example, it has been characterized as:

clip_image004clip_image002[2] a letter of separation,

clip_image002[3] of suffering and persecution,

clip_image002[4] of suffering and glory,

clip_image002[5] of hope,

clip_image002[6] of pilgrimage,

clip_image002[7] of courage,

clip_image002[8] and as a letter dealing with the true grace of God. Peter says that he has written “encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God” (5:12). This is a definitive general description of the letter, but it does not exclude the recognition of numerous subordinate and contributory themes. The letter includes a series of exhortations (imperatives) that run from 1:13 to 5:11.

4. Compare verses in 1 Peter with some statements I’ll read.

I would like you to compare what I read with verses in 1 Peter. Read . . .

1 Peter 1:6-8 (NIV):

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’.

How does that compare with this quote?

[8][. . . .] Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than that of gold which perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ; whom, having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see Him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Do any of you have any idea where that quote came from? Does it sound anything like 1 Peter 1:6-8?

It was by Clement of Alexandria Stromata Book IV, ch 20.[9]

Clement of Alexandria

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Clement depicted in 1584

In Book 4, ch 2, Clement explained what Stromata means: “As the name itself indicates, patched together — passing constantly from one thing to another, and in the series of discussions hinting at one thing and demonstrating another.”[10]

When did Clement of Alexandria live? He was born AD 150 in Athens and died between 211 and 215.[11]

I deliberately left out something at the beginning of that quote. It reads: ‘[12][Peter in his Epistle states]: Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations.

So as early as the late second century, Clement of Alexandria was quoting the Epistle of Peter, naming it as from Peter, and we now know it was from 1 Peter 1:6-8.

1 Peter 1:8

Read v. 8 again (NIV): ‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’.

How does that verse compare with this quote?

In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Saint Polycarp

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Martyr, Church Father and Bishop of Smyrna

That’s from the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians. Polycarp was a bishop at Smyrna. Where’s that? It was on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor (Turkey).

clip_image008clip_image010Smyrna, shown within Turkey on the Aegean Ocean line.

One of Polycarp’s famous quotes is from when the fire was about to be lit. He said: “When they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, Leave me as I am; for He that gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, “The funeral pile is erected,” ch. 13).

His martyrdom was the first after the time of the NT and he was in his 80s when he died.

When did Polycarp live? His age span was AD 69-156.[13] He was very close to the time of the original 12 apostles. Encyclopaedia Britannica states of him:

Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians is doubly important for its early testimony to the existence of various other New Testament texts. It probably is the first to quote passages from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the first letters of St. Peter and St. John.[14]

I wonder if we would have the same courage as Polycarp if we were faced with being a martyr for our faith:

Because he was born in 69 A.D., as a young man he knew the Apostle John and his faith grew from there. The local magistrate is reluctant to kill him but has no choice when Polycarp refuses to deny Christ.

In Polycarp’s famous words before his martyrdom, he stated: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” (New Advent, “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,” ch. 9)

Polycarp was sentenced to be burned. As he waited for the fire to be lit, he prayed:

“Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed and beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence:

“I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.

“Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.”[15]

1 Peter 1:8

There is something different about this quote from another of the church fathers. What is it? Listen carefully.

And this it is which has been said also by Peter: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom now also, not seeing, ye believe; and believing, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable.”

That citation is from Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (in what is France today) born c. 120, /140, Asia Minor—died c. 200, /203, probably in Lyon.[16]

What is stated here that was not in the other 2 quotes from the church fathers? Answer: The name of ‘Peter’.

Question: Why would I raise these parallels between today’s Bible (1 Peter) & the early church writers quoting 1 Peter?

Answers:

1. They show that the early church fathers quoted from Bible books even though they weren’t in a combined canon of Scripture. When were the 27 books of the NT formed into a single NT?

‘The first time a church council ruled on the list of “inspired” writings allowed to be read in church was at the Synod of Hippo [called Annaba, Algeria today] in 393 AD. No document survived from this council – we only know of this decision because it was referenced at the third Synod of Carthage in 397 AD’.[17] Today, Carthage is on the Mediterranean Sea of northern Tunisia.

2. How the individual books of the Bible came to be accepted as a collection of books inspired by God took 2-3 centuries. But as early as Polycarp in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries, a disciple of John, quoted from a number of books.

3. Why did some of these early writers after the NT not refer to the name of Peter and exactly which chapter and verse they referred to?

There’s a wonderful website that gives brief answers to most doctrinal questions. It’s called Got Questions? Beware that it is Calvinistic in tone. This is how this website explained the reasons why early church fathers could not quote chapter and verse:[18]

Question: “Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? Why and when was it done?”
Answer:
When the books of the Bible were originally written, they did not contain chapter or verse references. The Bible was divided into chapters and verses to help us find Scriptures more quickly and easily. It is much easier to find “John chapter 3, verse 16” than it is to find “for God so loved the world. . . .” In a few places, chapter breaks are poorly placed and as a result divide content that should flow together. Overall, the chapter and verse divisions are very helpful.


The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton’s chapter divisions.

The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.

clip_image011 Peter says that he wrote the book from “Babylon” (5:13). Among the interpretations that have been suggested are that he was writing from

(1) Egyptian Babylon, which was a military post, (2) Mesopotamian Babylon, (3) Jerusalem and (4) Rome. Peter may well be using the name Babylon symbolically, as it seems to be used in the book of Revelation (see Rev 14:8; 17:9–10 and notes). Tradition connects him in the latter part of his life with Rome, and certain early writers held that 1 Peter was written there.

Who received this letter? Verse 1, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” These were cities in northern Asia Minor, what is known as Turkey today. It was written to God’s people who were scattered, for some reason, across Turkey. If you read 1 Peter 4: 3-4, it suggests that these believers had probably “been converted out of paganism rather than out of Judaism.”[19]

First Peter 4:3 states, ” For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery,[20] lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”[21]

This probably refers to the persecution under Emperor Nero[22] of Rome following the fire that destroyed Rome in AD 64. 1 Peter “was probably written from Rome shortly before Nero’s great persecution — that is, in 62-64.”[23]

clip_image011[1]Why did Peter write this letter?

It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered. I Peter 5:12, ”I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

clip_image013 These Christians shared a common faith;

clip_image013[1] But they faced common problems. Their basic problem was that they lived in a society that was ignorant of the true and living God. What country does that sound like today?

clip_image013[2] As Christians, they would be misunderstood and given some cruel treatment;

clip_image013[3] Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.”[24]

clip_image013[4] This is a very practical and relevant message for us in Queensland and around the world in the 21st century.

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Notes


[1] Prepared on 11 February 2019. Some of the material is taken from my sermon online, 1 Peter 1:1-2, Don’t chuck it in because of who you are as the people of God. (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[2] These points are based on: Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 210-213.

[3] Ibid., pp. 210-211.

[4] Ibid., p. 211. B. C. Caffin states that Peter “must have written before the outbreak of any systematic attempt to crush out Christianity, or any legalized persecution such as that under Trajan. Judgment was about to begin at the house of God (ch. iv.17)”, I Peter, The Pulpit Commentary, Spence H.D.M. & Exell, J. S. (eds.), (Vol. 22), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1950, p. viii.

[5] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. Glasgow: Chapter House, 1988, p. 121, gives these details.

[6] Blum, p. 212.

[7] This section is from Biblica 2011-2019, 1 Peter (online), NIV Study Bible. Available at: https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/ (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[8] This segment began with the words: ‘Peter in his Epistle says, . .’

[9] Also available at New Advent 2017 at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02104.htm (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[10] New Advent 2017. Stromata (online, Bk4, ch 2. Available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02104.htm (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[11] From Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019 (s.v. Saint Clement of Alexandria). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Clement-of-Alexandria (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[12] This segment began with the words: ‘Peter in his Epistle says, . . .’

[13] Ibid.

[14] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Saint Polycarp. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Polycarp (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[15] Cited in Landon Meadow 2016. God’s gift is given through Christ. Leaf Chronicle (online), 10 June. Available at: https://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/news/2016/06/11/message-gods-gift-given-christ/85663344/ (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[16] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Saint Irenaeus. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Irenaeus (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[17] R A Baker 2008. How the New Testament canon was formed. www.churchhistory101.com. Available at: https://www.churchhistory101.com/docs/New-Testament-Canon.pdf (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[18] Got Questions Ministries 2002-2019. Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/divided-Bible-chapters-verses.html (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Debauchery” means “excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol, or drugs” (Oxford English Dictionary 2022. debauchery), available at: Excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol, or drugs (Accessed 16 January 2022).

[21] This section is from the NIV Study Bible’s introduction to 1 Peter. Biblica 2011-2019, 1 Peter (online). Available at: https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/ (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[22] Caffin’s view is that “all this seems to point to the time of the Neronian persecution. Before that date, we gather from St. Paul’s Epistles, there was no actual persecution in Asia Minor” (p. viii).

[23] Blum, p. 212.

[24] Ibid., p. 213.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 January 2022.

STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH[1]

PAKISTAN: Supreme Court Grants Bail for Christian Accused of Blasphemy

(image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs, Australia)

12 January 22 | All Posts, I Commit To Pray, News

(I Peter 1:1-2)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Bible Reading:

NIV, 1 Peter 1:1-12

1. INTRODUCTION

For the first time, North Korea [has] replaced Saudi Arabia as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, according to the recent “World Watch List” released by Open Doors on August 9, [2004]. . . .

“For years, Saudi Arabia has held the top spot on the list. The desert kingdom, which sees itself as the guardian of Islam and its sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, requires all [of] its citizens to be Muslims. A Saudi who converts to another religion faces the death penalty for apostasy.

“But growing evidence of severe oppression in North Korea has confirmed what many observers have believed for years, that the communist dictatorship of Kim Jong Il stops at nothing to eradicate all belief systems other than the worship of Kim himself and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung. Both father and son have made every attempt to purge the land of Christians.

“Nevertheless, the church has survived in North Korea. Christian refugees escaping North Korea’s devastating famine have told of small house churches. They rarely number more than 10 individuals, often including only family members for security. One refugee told of how a house church of 20-30 people simply disappeared in [the year] 2000.

“In relative terms, however, it doesn’t matter who is ranked number one on the list,” an observer said. “The conditions facing a Saudi or North Korean Christian are unimaginable for those of us in the West.”[2]

In case you are interested, Open Doors rated the top ten countries for persecuting Christians [in 2004] as: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, Maldives [Islands in the northern Indian Ocean towards India], Bhutan [near Nepal, north of Bangladesh], Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia [north Africa, near the mouth of Red Sea, E of Ethiopia].[3] China ranks at no. 12.

In 2020, Christianity Today listed:

Where It’s Hardest to Follow Jesus:
1. North Korea
2. Afghanistan
3. Somalia
4. Libya
5. Pakistan
6. Eritrea
7. Sudan
8. Yemen
9. Iran
10. India
[4]

If you were sending a Christian letter to encourage churches in North Korea that are severely persecuted, how would you begin your letter and what would you say? G’day, mate, how’s it going? OR, Greetings brothers and sisters in the Lord? How would you commence a letter to those who were being thrown into prison or prison camps and severely treated for their faith? [I’ll wait for your replies]

That’s the kind of situation Peter faced when he wrote First Peter. He wrote to Christians scattered across Asia Minor, which is Turkey today. This was happening to them:

I Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”[5]

2:20b, ” . . . if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

4:12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”

4:16, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

You may not be in a situation as bad as North Korea or Saudi Arabia, but some of you know the hostility of people against you when they know that you are Christians. Or the scoffing at you: What a God you have who allows September 11, Sadam Hussein, the Iraq war, and paedophiles in the church!

You may get to the point of asking yourself, “Is it worth it? Should I chuck in this Christianity? It’s not worth the opposition.” If that’s how you think, you need the message of I Peter – don’t give up when the going gets tough.

Peter gives FIVE very specific statements in his introductory greeting that are so important for those whose faith is being severely tested. In the greeting, the first two verses, to these suffering Christians, Peter wants to get across to them and to us:

2. STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD (vv. 1-2).

So “stand firm in the faith” is Peter’s emphasis in this book of I Peter: 5:9,

“Resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith,” 5:12, ” I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

To these Christian believers who are suffering terrible persecution, Peter greets them with facts that are core to the Christian faith. This is NO “Greetings brothers and sisters in the faith,” but God’s assurance to God’s people.

You are:

clip_image002Firstly, “God’s elect”; according to the foreknowledge of God

clip_image004Secondly, you are “strangers in the world”;

clip_image006Thirdly, “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit”;

clip_image008Fourthly, “for obedience to Jesus Christ”;

clip_image010Fifthly, “for sprinkling of blood.”

Let’s unpack this.

A. FIRSTLY, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE YOU ARE GOD’S ELECT.

Peter wanted the first century Christians (and us) to remember who we are in Christ! It’s a great honour for the church to be chosen by God. But God elected you into His kingdom, not for you to be proud about it, but for a purpose.

What did it mean that the believers in the first century were “elect”? Eph. 1:4 states: “For he chose us [elected us] in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

The teaching on election has caused much spiritual heartburn and conflict in Christian circles, thanks to the teaching of St. Augustine (4th. century) but especially John Calvin (16th century).

Calvin (and St. Augustine) taught this:

(1) “God chose out of the condemned race of Adam those whom He pleased and reprobated [i.e. rejected and damned] whom He willed.”[6]

(2) Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion: “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or the other of these ends, we say that we have been predestinated to life or to death” (3:21:5).[7]

A leading Calvinistic theologian today, R. C. Sproul, puts it this way:

From all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish. God made a choice—He chose some individuals to be saved into everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over, to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell. . . The elect do choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God. . . The non-elect receive justice. The elect receive mercy.[8]

In other words, God unconditionally elects you to salvation, but God unconditionally damns most of humanity to hell.

You are God’s elected, chosen people. This is who you are. You are not an accident of history or some weirdos. You are people chosen by God for a purpose. But let’s get this very clear, none of us would come to Christ, unless God moved in our lives by the Holy Spirit to draw us.

Henry Thiessen gives an excellent definition of election: “By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those whom he foreknew would accept Him.”[9]

But does that mean God chooses to save a small percentage of people throughout human history, and God chooses to send most people to hell?

I am convinced this is NOT a biblical view. This view of God makes him like an ugly monster. Opening the door for you, by his sovereign act, but giving most of the world the flick into a hell of horror, is grossly unjust in my view. It is inconsistent with the attributes of the God, revealed in the Scriptures.

I do not believe this is biblical Christianity for these reasons:

Firstly, this would make God very unjust, as one who chooses to unconditionally damn people to hell, but unconditionally chooses some for heaven. Ezek. 18:23 states, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD . Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” What is God like? He takes no pleasure in the death of ungodly people, but he takes pleasure in those who repent of their sinful ways and turn to him.

Secondly, we know that unconditional election of a minority of the human race is NOT the nature of God as he states in 2 Peter 3:9, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Thirdly, Titus 2:11 states, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (NIV).[10] Or as the ESV puts it: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”

Fourthly, John 3:16, ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

While all true believers are God’s elect, I Peter 1:2 says that they are

1. Elect according to the Foreknowledge of God the Father (v. 2)

Pause with me a moment to consider the nature and attributes of God, especially as it applies to God’s foreknowledge. Foreknowledge means “knowledge beforehand.”[11] But knowledge beforehand does NOT CAUSE things to happen. “Free actions [by human beings] do not take place because they are foreseen [or foreknown] by God, BUT they are foreseen because they will take place.”[12]

Also think with me about God’s omniscience – God’s all-knowing ability. For God, that means:

¨He and only He knows Himself and all other people and things.

¨He knows whether they are things that actually happen, will happen, or are merely possible;

¨God knows comprehensively and completely about people and things in the past, present and future;

¨God knows perfectly and from all eternity.

¨God knows all people and things at the same time, exhaustively and truly.[13] [See passages such as: I Sam. 23:11-12; Ps. 33:13-15; 139:1-10; 147:4-5; Prov. 15:3, 11; Jer. 23:23-25; Matt. 6:8, 32; 10:29-30; 11:21-24; I Cor. 2:11; Heb. 4:13].[14]

Let’s look at a sample of how much God knows about you, everybody, our world, and about Himself.

  •  Proverbs 15:3 (ESV), “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
  •  Hebrews 4:13 (ESV): “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
  •  Matthew 10:30 (ESV), “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” For some of us men that is a challenge, but not to God.

We don’t have space to look comprehensively at the Scriptures in this article, but we need to note God’s foreknowledge means that for US, it is God seeing into the future. For God, it is God having knowledge in the eternal present. There is no past and future knowledge with God. He is eternal and omniscient – all knowing.

clip_image012 God knows himself (the Trinity) intimately and only he knows himself (see Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:11); God knows things that are actually existing:

clip_image013 The inanimate creation (Ps. 147:4);

clip_image013[1] People and all of their works (Ps. 33:13-15);

clip_image013[2] People’s thoughts and hearts (Ps. 139:1-4);

clip_image013[3] God knows your needs (Matt. 6:8, 32); God not only knows things in the past and present, but he also knows all things that are possible:

clip_image015 He knew that Keilah would betray David to Saul, if he remained in that vicinity (I Sam. 23:11-12);

clip_image015[1] Jesus knew that Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they had seen the miracles that were performed in Bethsaida and Chorazin (Matt. 11:21);

clip_image015[2] Jesus knew that Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared disaster if they had seen the works that were done in Capernaum (Matt. 11:23-24).

n God’s foreknowledge means that he knows the future as the present for Him. Can you get a handle on that? However, we need to understand that from our “standpoint God’s knowledge of the future is foreknowledge, but not from God’s [point of view] since He knows all things by one simultaneous intuition (Acts 2:23; 3:18, etc.).[15]

So, Peter’s readers were “elect/chosen” believers “according to the

foreknowledge of God.” God knew beforehand what they (and we) would do with the proclamation of the Gospel. Would they respond or reject Christ? We know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” [Romans 10:17 (ESV)]. But we can’t come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit draws us

n Jesus said: John 6:44 (ESV), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Here in I Peter 1, the “foreknowledge of God the Father” means that God knew ahead of time what we were like and what we would do with his gracious offer of salvation in Christ.

First, Stand Firm in the Faith Because You are God’s elect.

B. SECOND, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE STRANGERS IN THE WORLD.

The original language does not include “in the world” but the idea is there. Other translations call them “aliens” (NASB, REB, NJB), “exiles” (NRSV, ESV), “refugees” (GNB), “sojourners” (NAB).

The idea is this: the chosen people of God are:

Persons who belong to some other land and people, who are temporarily residing with a people to whom they do not belong. They are for a time being aliens, foreigners, strangers and not natives. They never expect to become [naturalised citizens of this world]. They do not want to be considered or treated as natives by the . . . people among whom they happen to be living. . .

Aliens are often held in contempt by the natives among whom they dwell. To this day they may be placed under severe restrictions in times of war; they may be [thrown into prison] or even repatriated.”[16]

Yet, despite this treatment by the people living in this world, Peter states that you are “God’s chosen people.” “God’s election has made the Christians `foreigners’ to the rest. At one time [you] were common natives and lived on the same low level as the rest.”[17] You are not like that any longer.

We “live in the world but are no longer of the world. [We] have become like Abraham; [we] are merely sojourners in a land that is now strange to [us]. [We] look for a city which has foundations, whose designer and maker is God; heaven is [out] home and fatherland.”[18]

We are strangers as Christians living in Australia. Our desire is for a better country, a heavenly one, the city that God has prepared for us (see Heb. 11:9-16).

Don’t you feel like this sometimes? You are out of step with the direction the world is taking. We walk to the beat of a different drum. This is the way God wants it to be.

C. THIRD, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF THE SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE SPIRIT.

In v. 2, it is speaking of the Holy Spirit who applies God’s work of redemption to believers so that they will be holy—set apart—purified, and equipped for the task of serving Jesus in this wicked age. However, the Spirit will never sanctify you if you do not submit to him. Following conversion, the Spirit continues this sanctifying work by giving you power to overcome sin. This does not mean that you don’t blow it. Just remember the apostle Paul’s life in the Spirit. Listen to his struggle in Romans 7:15, 19, 21-25:

15 “I do not know what I am doing. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . .”

19 “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. . .”

21 “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;

23 “ but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

25 “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

This was Paul’s struggle with sin after becoming a believer. It will be yours too. However, you will be set apart to live a sanctified life by the work of the Spirit. This is how Paul described it in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Application:

Do you struggle with sin? I do! If you are finding it difficult to gain victory over a particular sin in your life, you must seek the Lord’s help and, perhaps, Christian counsel. However, since we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16), why don’t you speak to a Christian friend after the service or phone a friend whom you trust and ask for assistance? God uses the counsel and prayer support of other Christians. We are not lone ranger Christians. We need one another.

If people are brave enough to confess their faults to you, please don’t ever break that confidence. I want to tell you honestly that I’m wary of confessing my sins to people in the church because I don’t know what they will do with that information.

The Spirit, also, gives us assurance of sins forgiven (Rom. 8:16). The Spirit helps us with new ways of living – for example, the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22).[19]

Imagine if everybody in this church treated each other with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control! Imagine what would happen if you treated your boss, your husband or wife, fellow employees, your children, your parents, this way?

That is the sanctification God is calling us to. And it is absolutely possible through the Spirit’s work.

D. FOURTH, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH IN OBEDIENCE TO JESUS CHRIST.

Do you know one of the things that really bothers me about preaching,

my preaching, the pastor’s preaching? I am deeply concerned about how many of us leave this place, after hearing a message, and have no real desire to obey the message that was preached.

Parallel verses to I Peter 2 are Romans 8:29-30: “For those God foreknew he also predestined [or elected].” For what purpose? “To be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Rom. 8:30 goes on to say that “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified he also glorified.”

God elects the church with a purpose in view. In Romans 8, it is so that we might become more like Jesus in our thoughts and actions.

Or we could paraphrase Romans 8:29, “Because although he foreknew us, although he understood all about us and our weaknesses, yet he gave us this great destiny and task of becoming more like Jesus so that people will be attracted to the Master.”

Here in I Peter, the purpose is “obedience to Jesus Christ.” Same thing, isn’t it? I’m reminded of . . .

James 1:22-25:

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror

24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

As an example of what this means, Jesus said: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). The aim of being God’s elect is that we will be obedient to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:5 reminds us that this is “obedience that comes from faith.”

Our obedience is based on faith. I will never obey God’s word if I don’t

have absolute faith in God. However, the other side of the coin is that my obedience springs from faith. Because of my faith, I want to obey. Faith and obedience are like identical twins. “When you see one you see the other. A person cannot have genuine faith without having obedience.” There will be no consistent obedience without true faith.[20]

We see this wonderfully illustrated in the Book of Romans:16:19 Paul writes, “Everyone has heard about your obedience…”

When you become a true Christian, it is “by means of obedience of faith.”[21] To talk of a Christian who is full of faith in Jesus Christ and is not obedient to Jesus, is a paradox. To have genuine faith in Christ, you must be obedient. There is no other alternative. If you do not obey Jesus, your faith must be called into question.

clip_image017Application:

How are your faith and obedience going?

clip_image017[1]What does God say in His word that you are rebelling against?

clip_image018If your thought life became visible before our eyes, what would you be ashamed of?

Would Christ be pleased with what you have thought about this last week?

clip_image017[2]Has your viewing been to the glory of God? I find this a very helpful question: If Jesus sat beside me, would he approve of the books and magazines I read? What about the TV programs and videos I watch?

clip_image017[2]A Christian family sat in my counselling office a few years ago and said, “We don’t allow our kids to watch much TV. But they do enjoy, “Home and Away.” Have you ever considered the values that are promoted in “Home & Away” that are contrary to God’s word and holy living? I think you’d be surprised.

clip_image017[3]What about your conversation? Has your language been pleasing to God this week? To your wife, husband, kids, the boss, other employees, the person at the store?

clip_image018[1]How have I treated other people this week?

May the Lord convict you about what is not pleasing to Him and help you, starting today, to have these things sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit.

E. FIFTH & FINALLY, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE YOU ARE SPRINKLED BY HIS BLOOD.

My mother told me just a few weeks before she was called home to glory in 1997 that one of our relatives asked her, “Why is your Christianity such a bloody religion?” And he wasn’t swearing! To those who don’t understand, this is unusual language—sprinkling of blood—as the core of what it means to be God’s elect people. Jesus’ death is not mentioned in this phrase, but that is certainly what is meant.

“It is by means of the death of Christ that election is made possible. His death opened the way back to God [and caused the church – God’s chosen people – to come into being.]

The image of sprinkling with blood comes out of the Jewish sacrificial system. The blood of a bird was sprinkled on a leper when he was healed to signify cleansing (Leviticus 14:1-7). Blood was sprinkled on priests to signify that they were set apart for the service of God (Exodus 29:20-21; Leviticus 8:30). The primary Old Testament reference, however, is to the acceptance of the covenant by the people of Israel (see Exodus 24:1-8). God expressed his choice of Israel by means of a covenant in which he agreed to be their God and they agreed to obey him. To certify their acceptance of this covenant, Moses took half the blood of the sacrificial animals and sprinkled it on the altar and the other half he sprinkled on the people.[22]

The Spirit applies the death of Jesus to you and me (the church) to make us more like Jesus. Get the picture?

When the going gets tough, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD. What hope and encouragement we have, knowing that God has chosen us for obedience and provides the means through the cross of Christ, applied by the Spirit.

Notice the involvement of all the members of the Trinity here:

clip_image020 God the Father’s foreknowledge of you;

clip_image020[1] The Son’s blood that was shed; and

clip_image020[2] The Spirit’s sanctifying work.

No wonder Peter can greet these believers, scattered throughout the Turkey region today, with “grace and peace be yours in abundance.” Wow! What a statement about what is ours in Christ. God’s grace, his favour to rotten, rebellious sinners, which we don’t deserve, has been extended to human beings who will believe. “Peace” (in the Hebrew it’s Shalom) places emphasis on well-being. Peter’s prayer is that these divine mercies of grace and peace will be ours in abundance.

F. Conclusion

The concept of chosen or elect people comes originally from the OT. In Deut. 14:2, Moses told the tribes of Israel, “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Isaiah often spoke of Israel “whom I have chosen” (Isa. 41:8; 44:1; 45:4).

But here Peter shifts this thought to the Christian community. We, the born-again people of God—the church—are the elect. How is it possible for people who were enemies of God, rebels and hostile towards Him, to be chosen by God? How could this take place?

I remember two different funerals I attended in the last few years. One I went to, this fellow was preached into heaven with all Christians. I knew him. He was a nice guy, but in my experience he never gave evidence of knowing the Lord Jesus personally. I left that funeral, saying to myself: “I must live so that the preacher can tell the truth at my funeral.”[23]

The other funeral I attended was that of a friend of my family, George Clarke (whom some of you might have known. George was Brad Clarke’s father. Brad & Deb attended Central Baptist until they went to Brisbane.) George was a former criminal, a gangster, whom God radically changed when he repented of his sin and trusted Christ alone for his salvation. His funeral was a time of sadness, but a time of rejoicing, because we knew that calling George a Christian meant that believers would meet with him again at Christ’s return. He was one of God’s elect.

Are you among God’s elect? Do you really know the Lord? Where will you be one minute after your last breath? Are you sure about your eternal destiny? If you have doubts, please talk with me after the service or talk with the pastor.

What will you take away from this sermon that you will obey before God this week?

G.  Notes


[1] This sermon was preached at Gin Gin Baptist Church, Qld., Australia, 25 May 2003.

[2] Open Doors, “North Korea Tops Open Doors ‘World Watch List,’” Available at: http://www.odusa.org/ArchiveDisplay.asp?ID=9AB1FC24-64C7-4E23-8B6D-BB63E9C32D05&Category=Articles (Accessed 11 October 2004).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jayson Casper, Christianity Today, “The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian (2020),” January 15. Available at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/january/top-christian-persecution-open-doors-2020-world-watch-list.html (Accessed 13 January 2022).

[5] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the NIV.

[6] John Calvin, ‘A treatise of the eternal predestination of God, etc. etc., Section IV [Online], available from Calvin’s Calvinism, transl. Henry Cole, at: http://www.the-highway.com/Calvin_sectionIV.html [11th October 2004].

[7] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.21.5), transl. Henry Beveridge [Online], available from: http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/institutes/bookiii/bkiii25.htm [11th October 2004].

[8]R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, 161-62.

[9] Thiessen, H. C. 1949, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 344.

[10] Today’s New International Version, available from: http://www.tniv.info/pdf/TNIV_NewTestament.pdf [11th October 2004].

[11] Progn?nsis: Thayer states that the verbal form, progin?sk?, means “to have knowledge of beforehand; to foreknow.” For the noun form he simply defined as “forethought, pre-arrangement” [Thayer, JH (transl, rev., enlarged) 1962, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 538]. Progn?sis, the noun, only appears twice in the NT at Acts 2:23 and I Peter 1:2.

[12] Thiessen, p. 126.

[13] Based on Thiessen, p. 124.

[14] From Thiessen, pp. 124-125.

[15] The above Scriptures are based on ibid., pp. 125-126.

[16] R.C.H. Lenski, An Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter, the three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966, 21.

[17]Lenski, 21-22.

[18]Lenski, 22.

[19] Suggested by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace, A Study Guide for the Book of 1 Peter (Mastering the Basics). Littleton, Colorado: Serendipity U.S.A., 1988, 17.

[20] Based on William Hendriksen, Romans Chapters 1-8 (New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1980, 45.

[21] Hendriksen, 45.

[22] Coleman & Peace, 17.

[23] This was the funeral of Ray Martin, Director of YACCA, YMCA Bundaberg, who dropped dead of a heart attack in Bundaberg, in May 2003.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 January 2022.

1 Peter 3:19: Proclamation to spirits in prison

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1 Peter 3:18-20 reads:

18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water (ESV).

1.  Difficult to interpret

Martin Luther (AD 483 – 1546)[1] made a profound statement about this text in his commentary on 1 Peter:

This is a strange text, and a more obscure passage, perhaps, than any other in the New Testament, for I do not certainly know what St. Peter means. At first sight, the words import as though Christ had preached to the spirits — that is, the souls which were formerly unbelieving at the time Noah was building the ark; but that I cannot understand, I cannot even explain it. There has been no one hitherto who has explained it. Yet if any one is disposed to maintain that Christ, after that He had suffered on the Cross, descended to these souls and preached to them, I will not dispute it. It might bear such a rendering. But I am not confident that St. Peter would say this (Luther 2009, of 1 Peter 3:18-21, emphasis added).

These are among the most difficult verses in the New Testament to interpret. Commentator, D. Edmond Hiebert, observed, ‘Each of the nine words in the original has been differently understood’.[2] They are difficult because of these three questions that need answers:[3]

(a) About whom was Peter speaking when he wrote of the ‘spirits’ to whom Christ made this proclamation (v. 19)?

(b) When did this proclamation happen (v. 19)?

(c) What was the content of the proclamation? Was it a Gospel announcement or something else?

(d) When did these ‘spirits’ fall through disobedience?

Let’s examine some possibilities:

1.1 Christ preached to the dead

Those who interpret ‘the spirits in prison’ this way maintain that during the time between Christ’s death and resurrection he went to the realm of the dead and preached to Noah’s contemporaries:

This group is subdivided by various opinions on the nature of this proclamation. (1) Christ’s soul ministers an offer of salvation to the spirits. (2) He announces condemnation to the unbelievers of Noah’s time. (3) He announces good tidings [good news] to those who had already been saved (Blum 1981:241).

Briefly, let’s look at these 3 views. Firstly,

1.1.1 Christ offers salvation to those in the realm of the dead

This would possibly harmonise with that statement in the Apostles’ Creed:

… He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell….
[4]

In 1 Peter 3:19 it states that Christ ‘went and preached to the spirits in prison’. Does this refer to Jesus’ descent into hell, as in the Apostles’ Creed? Not at all. I haven’t found any biblical evidence for that conclusion. There is no biblical support for Christ between his death and resurrection or between his resurrection and ascension going down to Hades/hell.

Some suggest that Christ in his spirit preached to Noah’s contemporaries. Let’s wait to see what the biblical evidence demonstrates.

1.1.2 Pre-existent Christ and Noah’s generation

The second interpretation maintains that Christ, before he came in the flesh at the Incarnation, ‘preached in the time of Noah to Noah’s sinful generation’ (Blum 1981:241).

1.1.3 Christ proclaimed to the ‘disobedient spirits’

This third interpretation identifies the ‘spirits’ as the fallen angels to whom Christ proclaimed his victory on the cross. When did this proclamation take place? There are two options: (1) During the three days when Jesus descended into Hades, or (2) During his ascension.

This third position seems to be the option that Peter teaches in 1 Peter 3:18-4:6. ‘After Christ’s death, he made a victorious proclamation to the fallen angels’. This is defended and developed in this passage that goes through to 4:6 (Blum 1981:241).

Kistemaker agrees:

Recent commentators teach that the resurrected Christ, during his ascension to heaven, proclaimed to imprisoned spirits his victory over death. The exalted Christ passed through the realm where the fallen angels are kept and proclaimed his triumph over them (Eph 6:12; Col 2:15). This interpretation has met favorable response in Protestant and Roman Catholic circles and is in harmony with the teaching of the Petrine passage and the rest of Scripture (1986:147-148).

See also Barnes’ Notes on 1 Peter 3 for a detailed discussion of v. 19.

2. Take note of these facts

screneRed-small The main purpose of vv 18-22 is stated in v. 18? What is it? ‘For Christ also suffered’ (NIV). This is further emphasised by the preceding verses (vv. 13-17).

screneRed-small  This is the teaching in v. 18 that provides the reason for patient endurance (vv. 13-17).

screneRed-small According to v. 18, ‘to bring you to God’ was the reason for Christ’s death.

2.1 Problems with NIV translation[5]

The NIV translates v. 18 as, ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit’.

screneRed-small The NIV translates Spirit with a capital ‘S’. So, was Jesus’ body crucified and he was made alive ‘in the spirit’, small ‘s’? The ESV, Geneva Bible, LEB, NABRE, NASB, NRSV, and RSV translated as ‘spirit’ with a small ‘s’. Literally the Greek means, ‘Put to death in flesh, made alive in spirit’. Therefore, Blum (1981:242) gives this technical reason for rejecting the NIV translation

To translate one member of the antithesis [body vs spirit] as a dative of sphere or reference and the other as a dative of cause is inconsistent. It is best to take both as datives of reference (or “adverbial” or even “of sphere”) and to translate both “in the sphere of” (Blum (1981:242).

Thus the better translation of v. 18 would be one such as the NRSV, ‘He was put to death in [with reference to] the flesh, but made alive in [with reference to] the spirit’. Thus, grammatically, the small ‘s’ spirit is more consistent than capital ‘S’ Spirit.

3. When was the proclamation made?

Verse 18 says Jesus had been ‘made alive’, so this proclamation took place after his resurrection. I can’t find biblical evidence to support Christ’s ‘descent into hell’ between death and resurrection.

So Jesus must have gone to where these were located. We are not told where it was so we should not speculate. We can’t walk into a room of some confined space and discover these fallen, disembodied spirits.

The same verb, ‘went’, is used in verse 19 as verse 22.

4. What was the content of the proclamation?

Simon Kistemaker quoted Dalton:

What is meant by the word preached? The verb stands by itself, so that we are unable to determine the content of preaching. In brief, only the fact of preaching, not the message, is important. That is, we understand the verb preached to mean that Christ proclaimed victory over his adversaries. In his brevity, Peter refrains from telling us the context of Christ’s proclamation. We would be adding to the text if we should interpret the word preached to signify the preaching of the gospel. “Hence we may suppose with reason that it is the victory of Christ over His adversaries which is emphasized in 3:19, not the conversion or evangelization of the disobedient spirits.”[6]

4.1 The verb used tells something

The usual Greek word ‘to evangelise’ (euangelizw) is not used here but keryssw, which means ‘I proclaim/herald’. So the choice of the latter verb means that Christ came, not to preach the Gospel to spirits. What could that proclamation be?

There are no thoughts of salvation for lost angels in the NT (see Heb 2:16 and 1 Peter 1:12).

4.2 Who are the spirits (in prison)?

This is one of the easier parts to interpret. Verse 20 states ‘they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared’ (ESV). So at the time of Noah, these beings were disobedient and the Flood judgment came.

This judgment of the Flood is a warning to human beings that there is going to be a judgment of the disobedient, unrighteous world at Jesus’ second coming. This is stated in verses such as Matt 24:37-41 (ESV) and 2 Peter 3:3-7 (ESV). Noah’s ark that saved 8 people from the flood waters is a symbol of the salvation available in Christ right now.

First Peter 3:20 states who the ‘spirits’ are. They are those people who ‘formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water’ (ESV).

They were not angelic spirits but the spirits of the disobedient people who died at the time of Noah’s flood.

5. The nature of the prison

Eminent evangelical Lutheran scholar, R C H Lenski wrote of 1 Pet 3:19,

The Scriptures know of only one ‘prison,’ that confines ‘spirits,’ namely, hell, ‘hades,’ ‘the gehenna of the fire’ (Matt. 5:22; 18:9). To call this [prison] the realm of the dead; is to give a strange meaning to the word, ‘prison’ for all the dead are supposed to go into this fictitious place, the realm of the dead. Note 2 Pet. 2:9, 10, in fact all of 2 Pet 3:4-10 (Lenski 1966/2001:163).

(image courtesy Storming the Gates of Hell)

Another commentator wrote: ‘The prison confining the unbelieving spirits is not a reform school, but a penitentiary for life’ (Engelder 1945:381).

It is not clear whether Jesus did the preaching to spirits in prison at the time of Noah or at the time of his Incarnation.[7]

However, the prison refers to Hades and Gehenna/hell. See Prov 27:20; Matt 5:25; Luke 12:58 where ‘prison’ is a type for hell.

In hell, so this is taken, in Proverbs 27:20; compare with Matthew 5:25 Luke 12:58, where prison is mentioned as a type or representation of hell. There are similar expressions in 2 Peter 2:4-5; Jude 1:6.

6. Two main understandings

From the time of the early church fathers until the twenty-first century, there have been two main interpretations of 1 Peter 3:19:[8]

6.1 Firstly, Jesus preached to the departed spirits NOW in prison.

Our Lord, through Noah, preached repentance to the people of Noah’s time. There is no association with the doctrine of ‘descent into hell’ in this interpretation.

6.2 Secondly, what Jesus did when his body was in the grave.

This is the most popular interpretation from the Fathers to Luther and a large number of contemporary interpreters. It is claimed that ‘this is the most natural construction to put on the words “in which also” (i.e. in spirit)’. It is associated with Jesus’ being ‘quickened in spirit’.

So, he went from his death and the spirits were alive when Christ preached to them. His spirit, ‘disengaged from the body’, went to the place of other disembodied spirits and proclaimed certain news. The content of this proclamation was not stated but 1 Peter 4:6 (ESV) points to Gospel preaching:

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The prison is not ‘a place of safe keeping’ for both good and bad spirits. Although ‘prison’ is used 28 times in the NT, not once is it a place of protection but twice (Rev 18:2) it is used as ‘a cage’.

7. Conclusion

Verses 18-19 demonstrate that Jesus was put to death with reference to the body/flesh and was made alive with reference to his spirit, thus pointing to Christ’s death and resurrection.

The proclamation made is not of the Gospel because of the verb used kerussw (not euangelizw). It is an announcement – maybe of the victory by Jesus – to those unbelievers who did not obey with repentance in the time of Noah. However, the exact content of the proclamation is not stated in the text.

Congolese town crier

Jesus did not descend into Hades and make a Gospel proclamation to the fallen angels. However, he went to the ‘prison’ where deceased spirits were and made an announcement like a town crier would do in the first century.

‘The spirits in prison’ refers to the people who had died and were now in hell/Hades, awaiting judgment. The prison is a representation of hell. However, the people in the ‘prison’ are those who did not repent in Noah’s day and died. Their spirits went Hades.

8. Works consulted

Blum, E. A. 1981, ‘1 Peter’ in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12), Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Engelder, T 1945. The Hades Gospel, Part 2. Concordia Theological Monthly, June, 374-396. Available at: http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/EngelderHadesGospel2.pdf (Accessed 30 October 2019).

Hiebert, D E 1984. First Peter: An Expositional Commentary. Chicago: Moody.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude.[9] Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966/2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (© 1966 Augsburg Publishing House).

Luther, 2009. The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained (Tr. E H Gillett). The Project Gutenberg EBook (online). Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29678/29678-h/29678-h.htm (Accessed 10 September 2019).

9.  Notes

[1] Dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2019. s.v. Martin Luther).

[2] Hiebert (1984:226) (in Kistemaker1986:141 n 54).

[3] The first 3 questions were suggested by Blum (1981:341).

[4] Christian Reformed Church 2019. Apostles’ Creed (online). Available at: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/apostles-creed (Accessed 9 September 2019).

[5] These details are from Blum (1981:242).

[6] Dalton (1964:155) (in Kistemaker1986:142 n 59).

[7] A T Robertson. Available at: https://www.studylight.org/commentary/1-peter/3-19.html (Accessed 30 October 2019).

[8] These 2 points are based on Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Available at: ibid.

[9] Note that this commentary does not present continuous numbering but reverts to new numbers with each Bible book. The numbers for Jude are continuous with 1 & 2 Peter.

Lazarus and the Rich Man (illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 October 2019.

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Hope for a Hopeless Australia

Salvation gives you hope that is out of this world (1 Peter 1:13)

Image result for Clipart Hope Christ's second coming

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In today’s values, this verse could be mutilated to say something like: “Don’t let your feelings be judged by anybody. In your thoughts and actions, be open-minded. You do whatever brings you pleasure right now. Set your sights on your self-esteem and go for it with gusto.”

I’m using ‘hopeless’ as an adjective for the wrong direction in which Australians, as a nation, are seeking hope. We seek it in:

blue-arrow-small Consumerism. We are a materialistic society seeking pleasure in things. ‘Australians spent up to $2.4 billion at the Boxing Day sales [2017]’.

blue-arrow-small False ethical standards. Ethical values by government and individuals – in the main – are decided by personal or government choice. There is no overall absolute standard by which moral decisions are made (e.g. Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount). We see this with the legalisation of prostitution, abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, exaltation of same-sex relationships, transgenderism, and defacto relationships. Every one of those ethical values is refuted by the Christian Scriptures but relativism dominates ethical decisions at both national and personal levels.

All About Philosophy provides this explanation:

What is ethical relativism? Relativism is the position that all points of view are equally valid and the individual determines what is true and relative for them (sic). Relativism theorizes that truth is different for different people, not simply that different people believe different things to be true. While there are relativists in science and mathematics, ethical relativism is the most common variety of relativism. Almost everyone has heard a relativist slogan:

  •  What’s right for you may not be what’s right for me.
  •  What’s right for my culture won’t necessarily be what’s right for your culture.
  •  No moral principles are true for all people at all times and in all places.

Ethical relativism represents the position that there are no moral absolutes, no moral right or wrong. This position would assert that our morals evolve and change with social norms over a period of time.

The problems with relativism are:

3d-gold-star (1) In allowing all people to choose their own values, there is no value that can be prohibited because ethics are left up to personal choice. Why should murder be wrong if a person is allowed to choose his or her own values? From where do those standards come?

3d-gold-star (2) The logical consequences of relativism are that it gives licence to all kinds of extreme behaviour such as paedophilia, DV, Hitler’s holocaust, the mass shootings in Christchurch NZ and Sri Lanka, murders, lying, stealing, adultery and all kinds of immoral acts (by God’s standards).

They are some of the problems when there are no absolute standards. All nations need absolutes to make legislation and apprehend criminals.

· Australia’s Christian foundation is demonstrated each day when the President of the House reads a Christian prayer. Christian values brought to Australia by the First Fleet and enshrined in the Australian Constitution: ‘Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.

God’s view is radically different.

1. God’s view of hope

God commands Peter’s readers, you and me to “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v. 13). These persecuted believers of the first century “were to set their hope completely, with finality, on the grace being brought to them in connection with Jesus Christ’s revelation” (Blum 1981: 52).

When the going gets tough and you are persecuted for your faith, your salvation means that you place your hope completely on the future grace that you will receive when Christ is revealed. When will Christ be revealed again?

We know he was revealed at his birth, death and resurrection. But these believers are told that they must place their hope on the grace “that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ESV). It was future for the first century church and it is still future for us.

It undoubtedly refers to Christ’s Second Coming (the Parousia). We read about it in I Peter 4:13, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Or, 1 Cor. 1:7, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Also 2 Thess. 1:7, “and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

During these tough times, you will need one another especially. That’s why Scripture teaches:

We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer. (Heb 10:25 ERV).

2. What is hope?

Our hope is NOT based on the temporal, but on the future revelation of the Lord Jesus. It is sometimes said of Christians that “they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” Folks, the true Christian is one who is not half-heartedly, but completely and fully, setting his/her hope on the Christ who is to come.

Stephen Spencer states that:

Hope is waiting in confident expectation for God’s promises in Christ, summed up in the gospel. Hope is fundamental because the gospel concerns God’s culmination of his redemptive work, “the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed” (1 Pet 1:13 NRSV), the “hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Most of what for which we trust in Christ remains yet future (Rom 8:24b)….

Christians hope “by faith” (Gal 5:5). Faith trusts in God’s promises, while hope expects what is to come….

Christians’ most cherished hope is Christ’s personal, bodily return in judgment and blessing[1]

We are of great earthly good, because our hope is set on Him and his coming to rule and reign forever. If you set your hope on anything in this world, you are on a sinking ship. Chuck Colson’s view is that “the culture in which we live is nearly lost” (Colson 1994, p. x). What a tragedy that so many Christians have their hope on the sinking ship.

If you set your hope on who will win the election, you’re on board the Titanic – a sunken ship.

In order to “set your hope completely” on God’s grace at Christ’s second coming, Peter tells his persecuted readers that you must do two things:

Flower11 First, you are “preparing your minds for action” and

Flower11 Second, “exercise self-control” (1 Pet 1:13 NLT).

3. Simply stated

Hope is not a hope so, maybe, perhaps, it could be, or possibly!

It means you look forward, with anticipation, to Jesus’ second coming, the end of this wretched world, and ‘we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth. Godliness will live there. All this is in keeping with God’s promise’ (2 Pet 3:13 NIRV).

It is not a hope-so but the guarantee of God’s grace coming to believers at the Second Coming of Christ with the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, what are Christians to do? See 1 Pet 1:13:

Foward  Prepare your minds for action, and

Foward Exercise personal and church self-control.

4. Notes

[1] Stephen R Spencer 2005. Hope. In Kevin J Vanhoozer (gen ed), Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 305-307.

5. Works consulted

Blum, E. A. 1981, ‘1 Peter’ in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12), gen. ed., Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids,
Michigan.

Hope Butterfly Clip Art

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 April 2019.

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