Sunday, November 29, 2009

1st Peter – A Letter from Jesus

Preface: When I originally wrote this I printed  it out and gave it to the members of a study group. As they came to each question they would fill in the blanks and then later we would all get together and walk through and discuss the lesson. If you decide to participate with the lesson, you may  desire to do the same thing, print it out and fill in the blanks. I promise that if you do that, you will get a great deal more from this study, because you will be contemplating the definitions, and questions which promotes personal understanding to a much deeper level.

Please note:  Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.
            Lesson 1, “Introduction” -- Written by Marcia McCance
The Apostle Peter was a prominent disciple of Jesus.  When he traveled with Jesus he was also sometimes impulsive and sometimes misunderstood the mission and intention of Jesus -- as we all do -- until we grow and mature in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. 
            Peter’s original name was “Simon bar Jona” (Simon, the son of Jona). Simon, a variation of “Simeon,” means “heard.”  Before he became a disciple of Jesus, he was a fisherman living in Capernaum near the sea of Galilea. After he followed the call of Jesus and left his fishing business behind, Jesus gave him the name of “Cephas” which is “Peter” in Greek, and means “rock.”  He was then called “Simon Peter” (which makes me think of: “the rock who heard” or “the rock who was heard”).
            The Gospels paint a colorful picture of Peter as an eager and energetic figure who had both successes (he walked on water) and failures in his journey with Jesus (he denied even knowing Jesus in the courtyard where Jesus was tried). After Jesus' death and resurrection, when the Holy Spirit first fell on all the believers in the upper room at the first Day of Pentecost, Peter became a spirit-filled spokesman. At Peter’s preaching about Jesus Christ, 3000 people repented and were saved on that day. (Acts 2:14-36)
            He continued to be a strong leader in the church at Jerusalem and the surrounding areas of both Samaria and Israel, even as far away as Rome. This does not mean that he never made any more mistakes but it does mean that the Holy Spirit performed many miracles through Peter in the early church and he was a strong witness for Jesus Christ.
Acts 5:15-16 -- so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.  Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
            We are about to begin reading the first letter in the Bible written by Peter (believed written from Rome) to those who had left Jerusalem because of persecution there.
            “The epistles of Peter are well-known for great tenderness of manner, and for bringing forward prominently the most comforting parts of the gospel. He wrote to those who were in affliction; ....” -- (Albert Barnes -- Commentary [edited])
As we study we will pay attention to the 3 questions we must ask of any Bible Passage:
            1. What does it say?                             - Information                          
            2. What does it mean?                          - Interpretation                        
            3. What does it mean for my life?          - Application.  
                        a. BELIEVE -- it was meant for me -- take the message into my own heart
                        b. TRUST -- in the unchanging goodness and love of our Lord Jesus Christ
                        c. CONFORM -- my actions to Him – through the enabling of the Holy Spirit
1. What does it say? - Information
 NKJV -- 1* ¶ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2* elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
2. What does it mean? - Interpretation
1 ¶ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
This is the “letter head” -- the one who is writing the letter always lets us know who he is by putting his own name and some form of “identification” at the top (head) of the letter. In Peter’s “letter head” he identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
(Note: for definitions and synonyms scroll to the bottom of the page.)
What does the word “apostle” mean?                                                         
Whose message does Peter deliver?                                                          
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion
This is the “address” -- this letter is addressed: “to the pilgrims of the Dispersion”
What is a “pilgrim”?                                                                    
What does “the Dispersion” mean?                                                          
 in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
The 5 cities where believers lived, to whom the letter was originally sent. This is a description of their “outer condition” -- one of their circumstances – it is the setting for their lives. The believers in these cities lived in what is now called “Turkey” where they got married, had children, worked, prayed, lived and died.
NOTE: since God preserved this letter for us to read in His word, the letter is also written to us. This means that whatever principles and doctrines, or teachings and blessings are in the letter, we who are believers may take as written to us also.
(Remember this is still the “address” -- Peter is still defining who he intends this letter to go to.)
 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
What does “elect” mean?                                                                
What does “foreknowledge” mean                                                          
 in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
This is a description of their “inner condition and their identity” -- what God, the Father, in His great love, gave them (and us) -- which sets the “elect” apart from other people (makes them identifiable as God’s children). This is their inner identity (self, character, distinctiveness, uniqueness). It is important to remember that the word “elect” applies to all the following phrases.
“in sanctification of the Spirit,”
What does “sanctification” mean?                                                           
What do you think “sanctification of the Spirit” means?                                             
NOTICE the word “of.” The sanctification, or declaration of holiness, is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are not “holy” because of who we are. We are made holy by Him who cleanses us and dwells in us!
1 Corinthians 6:19* Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
“for obedience”  
What is obedience?                                                                 
NOTICE the word “for.”  -- “in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience” -- The presence of the Holy Spirit in us makes us able to be obedient! The purpose of the “sanctification of the Spirit,” is obedience in us.
After we have received the Holy Spirit of God (because we have believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in His ascension into heaven) He, being the Son of God, makes us able to be obedient to His Word! When we have trouble being obedient we need to ask Jesus to help us because we are not able to be obedient on our own.
 Jude 1:24-25* Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.
“and sprinkling of the blood”
To understand what the “sprinkling of the blood” means, we look to the sacrifices which were performed in the Old Testament. 
Leviticus 8:30  Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him.
The first thing that God ordered to be cleansed with anointing oil and “the blood which was upon the altar” were the priests, themselves. What does “consecrated” mean?                                                    
Leviticus 16:18  "And he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD, and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around.
What does “atonement” mean?                                                             
What part of the altar was the blood sprinkled on?                                                
Where is the altar?                                                                     
Notice that the second thing that was cleansed by the blood was the Altar, and it took the blood of two clean animals (the bull, and the goat) to perform this task. The purpose was to make it clean “before the Lord.”
 Leviticus 16:19  "Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.
He is still speaking of the altar. What is it being cleansed from?                                        
Leviticus 16:20 ¶  "And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat.
The KJV  uses the word “reconciling” instead of “atoning”…
Leviticus 16:20 KJV ¶  And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:
What does it mean to “reconcile” or to “atone”                                                   
After the “reconciliation” what was then brought in?                                               
Leviticus 16:21 NKJV And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
Wow!  A living goat was brought in and Aaron placed his hands upon its head and made a confession of the sins of the children of Israel. This shows the importance of our own confession of sins which is the recognition of who and what we really are.  It shows even more that the sins of one can be placed on the head of another!
What does this make you think of?                                                                                                                                             
 Leviticus 16:22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
As I thought about the goat being taken out and abandoned in the uninhabited wilderness, I thought about it wandering in the desert all alone. It was a domesticated animal and not so likely to live very long on it’s own… and then it suddenly came to me:
Mt 27:46  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
This is what Christ did for us! He became our “scape goat”!  He suffered, not only the misery of the beatings and the cross, and the mocking, but also that moment of abandonment -- his most miserable moment on Earth! How lonely it must have been!  Thank God, He did not stay there forever, but was taken back and loved and exalted! When he says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” – He knows exactly what that means. And I am grateful that He does not want us to suffer in that same way. Ever!
We “escaped” because He took all our sins upon himself -- that we might be freed from the burden and the consequences of our own sin! He has also enabled us to come near to God, again!!  What a Redeemer!!
Hebrews 9:13-14 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
It is our conscience which is cleansed -- by faith in Jesus Christ (claiming the blood), and what He did for us on the cross that we are “sprinkled with His blood” and made pure in the sight of God (sanctified, reconciled, atoned, restored). Claiming His blood purifies us, and purges (cleanses) our consciences from sin (dead works) so that we may be able to serve the living God by doing good works (living works, obedience)!  We receive it by faith in Christ -- alone!  And we can only live it by continued faith in Christ.
Titus 2:14* who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
It is not what we did.  It is what HE DID!!  And He did it so that we might be his own special people -- that we might be zealous for good works (passionate to obey) because of our faith in Him! (Zealous means: enthusiastic, passionate, fervent, eager, extreme)
 Grace to you
Here is the “greeting”!  This is how Peter says “Hello” to his fellow believers! He gives a blessing! What a lovely greeting!  “Grace to you” -- What do you think Peter meant when he said “Grace to you”?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
and peace be multiplied.
What do you think “peace be multiplied” means?                                                                                                                                    
And that is just the introduction!  I want to point out something else:
1. This letter is from Peter who is a messenger of Jesus Christ, meaning that Peter is delivering the message from Jesus to us!
2. Jesus tells us we are, just like the original receivers of the letter, “elect” or “chosen by God the Father” -- before time began.
3. And we are sanctified and made into a temple of the Living God by His Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
That is the Trinity in action on our behalf and in our lives!! 
                God, the Father (who knows us and chose us beforehand)
                God, the Son (who delivered us from death and taught us of the Father’s great love)
                God, the Holy Spirit (who dwells in us, making us into temples of the Living God)
3. What it means to me (Personal Application):
 BELIEVE, TRUST, CONFORM: (your personal space:)

Now, go back to the top of the study and read the first two verses again with your new understanding.
Apostle -- messenger, sent forth, disciple, missionary, advocate
Atonement -- to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation, cover over with pitch (tar) -- the reconciliation of God and man through Jesus Christ.
Consecrate  --  to declare a place holy, to dedicate it to a specific purpose, and to bless -- sanctify, bless, set apart, make holy
Dispersion -- caused to go in different directions, distributed or spread over a wide area, scattered abroad (capitalized to mean this particular “sending away” from Jerusalem)
Elect -- chosen, voted for (by God!)
Foreknowledge -- (God’s) awareness of something before it exists.
Grace -- the free, unmerited favor of God for the salvation of sinners and the gift of blessings.
Obedience -- compliance, conformity, agreement, submission, respect, duty, deference
Peace -- freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquil
Pilgrim -- one who travels on long journeys, worshiper, devotee, believer; traveler, crusader
Reconciliation -- reuniting, reunion, bringing together (again), pacification, appeasement
Sanctification -- set apart as or declared holy; consecrate; 

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