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Insight #13 June 24, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Major Themes in 1 and 2 Peter
June 24, 2017
 
​​The small Petrine epistles are rich in many themes, all of which are embraced in the 1888 Message and the Gospel Message, as well as the resulting fruits in the life, in progressive personal sanctification, as well as corporate involvement in the world-wide mission of the proclamation of the Everlasting Gospel.

1 Peter 2:24   Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
 
Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, and redeemed the race, thus legally justifying corporate humanity “in Christ.”  Those who believe and receive that free gift in true, living faith, experience freedom, forgiveness, peace, healing, and a new life of righteousness. 
Peter places the Gospel at the center, and the context is the early trials and persecution that the church faced, as well as the growing problem of deception in teaching.  In 1 Peter, the big issue Peter confronted was the persecution that Christians were facing. In 2 Peter, the great issue was false teachers. Peter wrote forcefully and authoritatively as he sought to encourage his readers, as well as warn them in regard to the challenges before them.
What is significant is that Peter responds to both issues in theological terms. The sufferings caused by persecution led Peter to meditate on the sufferings and death of Jesus, which resulted in our salvation. The false teachers are going to face the judgment. This judgment will take place after Jesus returns to this earth with the saved after the thousand years in heaven have ended. These are some of the themes that Peter deals with in his two letters.  Whatever we face in life, if we look to the cross and the “matchless charms” of Jesus Christ, the degree of love, sacrifice, and risk He took to save us, it will sustain us in time of trial. 
Persecution is more immediate and physical.  False teaching is more insidious, and gradually creeps in, as the church is tempted to compromise and water down what Peter recognizes is a constant theme throughout the Bible, the call to holiness.  One of the tremendous contributions made in the 1888 Message was the linking of the Gospel with the Heavenly Sanctuary, and the realization that God is calling us, through His spirit, in experience, into the Most Holy Place to write His law in our hearts.  Thus the drawing of God to learn the truth of Christ’s life and death, in the union of divinity with fallen humanity, to realize the corporate redemption of mankind, the working of true faith, and the fruit of faith in a life of obedience leading to progressive sanctification and ultimately victory over sin as the Sanctuary is Cleansed, are all true in this link to the heart of Christ.  We love, because He first loved us. 
This week’s final lesson will look in more detail at five of the themes Peter wrote about: the suffering of Jesus that led to our salvation; our practical response to the knowledge that God will judge our actions at the last judgment; the hope we have in the soon return of Jesus; order in society and in the church; and the role Scripture has in providing guidance in our lives.
When Peter mentions salvation, it is usually in the context of Jesus’ suffering as a Substitute for sinners. For example, in 1 Peter 2:22–24, when Peter writes about the suffering of Jesus, he is using language that reflects Isaiah 53:5, 6, 9. “[Jesus] bore our sins in His own body” on the cross and “by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24) reveal the ideas of substitution and sacrifice.
Like Paul (Romans 3:21, 22), Peter emphasizes the need for faith. As he says to his readers: “Although you have not seen him, you love him . . . for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8, 9). Salvation is not earned by godly behavior, but it is granted when we believe in what Jesus has done for us and accept Him as our personal Savior. Our assurance is found in Him, not in ourselves. If it were in ourselves, what real assurance would we have? Sanctification is the fruit of living faith, for it is “Not I, but Christ, who lives in me.”  Obedience is the fruit of faith. We love, because he first loved us.  He wins our hearts in love and we follow Him in faith and trust. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
"Therefore, when the apostle says that we do not make void the law of God by faith, but that, on the contrary, we establish it, he means that faith does not lead to violation of the law, but to obedience. No, we do not say that faith leads to obedience, but that faith itself obeys.  The statement is a brilliant insight into what faith is.  Faith obeys, for faith is a total surrender to Christ. 
Peter considers Christian behavior at many points in his two letters, and a number of themes keep recurring. First, Peter twice emphasizes the link between the judgment of God and Christian behavior (1 Peter 1:17 and 2 Peter 3:11). God will judge everyone’s actions. Thus, a Christian should live a life of holiness.
Second, several times Peter mentions that Christians should be holy. In the Hebrew Bible, things that are holy are set aside for use in the temple (Exo. 26:34; 28:36; 29:6, 37) or for God’s purposes (for example, the Sabbath in Genesis 2:3). In fact, God’s plan was that His people should be holy, just as He is holy, a theme Peter touched on, too (Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15, 16). The process of setting something aside as holy is called “sanctification,” and Peter’s desire is that his readers become sanctified by the Spirit and be obedient to Jesus (1 Peter 1:2).
Peter highlights two things that will take place in the future: the last judgment and the fiery destruction of evil. In other words, he shows that although there is persecution now, justice and judgment will be done, and believers will receive their eternal reward.
Peter mentions judgment on three separate occasions (1 Peter 1:17; 4:5, 6, 17). He says that God the Father judges all humans impartially according to their deeds (1 Peter 1:17). He notes that Jesus Himself stands ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5). He also makes the intriguing observation that judgment starts with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).
Peter also emphasizes that “the godless” will be destroyed in a worldwide firestorm (2 Peter 3:7).
The Christian life is guided by very practical Christian counsel. In a time of the abuse of power by leaders, leading to persecution, Peter still applies Biblical principles to the issue of respecting human authority. 
Peter would no doubt share Paul’s conviction that good church governance is important, too. Paul insists, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) in church worship services. Peter likewise asks the church leaders to “tend the flock of God that is in your charge” (1 Peter 5:2). They are to do so with humility and care. Local churches need to be led well. Good leaders provide vision and coherence and enable others to exercise their spiritual gifts for the glory of God.
Peter places a priority on the Word of God, and in an age in which the Bible is being continually attacked, we need such counsel. 
2 Pe 3:16  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 
2Pe 3:17   Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 

Peter understands the role of truth in relationship to salvation and the working out of God’s will in our lives.
  He therefore severely warns against false teachers, who are “wresting” Scriptures, but ultimately, they are ignoring the Holy Spirit and Christ who saved them.  The truth changes us, making us into people who love one another fervently and with “a pure heart.” Obedience, purity of heart, and love—all three are related to one another. This is the ideal we should be striving for.
 Think what it would do for the sense of church unity, if nothing else. “Brethren, will you carry the spirit of Christ with you as you return to your homes and churches? Will you put away unbelief and criticism? We are coming to a time when, more than ever before, we shall need to press together, to labor unitedly. In union there is strength. In discord and disunion there is only weakness.” —Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 373, 374.
For Peter, this all has implications for the Second Coming, for we can “hasten” Christ’s coming.  May we all experience and retain the gospel, that will be able to see His Coming.
~Pastor Tom Cusack