After Jesus called Peter to feed and care for His flock, Peter did not go back to school and get an advanced Bible education. He was still a fisherman with limited education but who was now filled with the Holy Spirit. It is so easy to see the needs of the people but try to solve it using human methods. If Peter had done that, he would never have been able to write divinely-inspired Scripture.
I want to highlight a sample of the truths from Peter’s first epistle that point to the divine wisdom that this poorly educated fisherman was able to feed ME in a special way. Of course ALL of what He wrote was divinely inspired, so I don’t want to minimize the rest, but I want to call out a few things that Peter speaks to, and that I’d like to point out as key nuggets of divine wisdom for us.
1. God is both our Loving Father and our Holy Judge(1 Peter 1:13-19)
Some people interact with God as a loving Father who ignores their sins because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Others interact with God who is a holy Judge who is constantly angry at them for their sins. They are beset by fear because of the holiness of God.
The simple fisherman Peter was able to describe both wings of truth very simply and clearly: God IS a loving Father. And God IS a holy Judge. Our lives must maximize both these realities. How do we interact with God both as a loving Father and a holy King? The analogy of the son of a loving king illustrates this. The son always calls the king his father, and always approaches him as his own father who is rooting for him in love (Hebrews 4:16). But the son also knows that he is an extension of his father the king, and that the people who are watching his behavior and his speech must see the dignity of royalty. Therefore, there is a deep care and soberness in his behavior.
2. Holy Priesthood (1 Peter 2:1-12)
The vast majority of ministry in churches are not an active demonstration of priests in action. Amidst the myriad of activities and ministries, there is rarely a sense of holy priests in action. I think about the Levitical priests, and the deep care and attention they took to the sacrifices they offered. This spirit is missing in almost all Christian service today. I thank God for this vivid picture with which to serve God – putting aside all malice and hypocrisy (v1), longing for purity and simplicity (v2), offering up spiritual sacrifices (v4) as ones who are the recipients of great mercy (v10), and therefore abstaining from fleshly lusts (v11) and being excellent in behavior (v12).
3. Honoring God-placed authority (1 Peter 2:13-20)
Peter wrote this letter at a time when Christians were persecuted. This makes the weight of his instruction to honor and submit to those in authority all the more meaningful. I find that today’s Christian culture can too easily discard this, and be disrespectful in their words and attitudes towards authorities that do not support their moral beliefs. We
are never to disobey our conscience, but we must still always honor human authority.
4. The immense importance of being Christ-like in our speech(1 Peter 2:21-3:10)
Peter links the sinlessness of Christ with His purity of speech. When Jesus said “Follow Me” to Peter, it meant one thing. But after decades of following Jesus, Peter saw it as:
a) Following in His steps where He committed no sin
b) Following in His steps where no deceit was found in His mouth
c) Following in His steps where He did not return insults with insults
d) Following in His steps where He did not threaten others who made Him suffer
And Peter also stresses the importance of our words in our married lives: Wives should be deeply respectful in their speech, and men should honor their wives if their prayers are to be answered. I have seen that the tongue indeed is such a key body part living a holy life and having a holy marriage.
5. Always prepared to make a defense… for our HOPE (1 Peter 3:13-16)
1 Peter 3:15 is a verse often used to claim that Christians should know how to respond intellectually to arguments against Christian beliefs, whether it is evolution, relativism, pantheism, etc. Not for one second do I believe that Peter meant that! Peter the fisherman did not stand a chance against the post-graduate Greek philosophers!
I can understand Peter’s heart when I read the verse simply. I am ready to defend my hope. The Bible is clear about the Christian’s hope: We will be like Jesus in His purity of character (1 John 3:2-3,Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18).And my sanctified (set apart for Jesus) life is my defense. And when others question the hope that I have to be like Jesus, I will show them the TV programs and movies I watch and don’t watch, the books I read and don’t read, how I spend my free time, the way I speak to my wife and children, the way I behave at work, my goals and priorities, etc. These are what will testify to my hope that I want to be like Jesus.
And even if I am persecuted for my beliefs (1 Peter 3:14), I still keep my focus on purifying my heart of all un-Christlikeness. I stay on guard to ensure that the throne of my heart remains protected for Jesus alone. It is this conscience kept clear that gives me confidence to be unfazed by whatever others might accuse me of.
6. Following Christ as a disciple means following Him in suffering (1 Peter 4)
The idea of suffering appears several times in the first epistle of Peter. Peter tells me that the secret to stop sinning is to suffer in the flesh, like Jesus did. The suffering of Jesus was not connected to His crucifixion, because His crucifixion obviously didn’t do anything to keep Him from sinning prior to that. He suffered as He overcame the devil and every other temptation before His crucifixion. It was not suffering physically, but by the constant denying His own self-will, to do the will of His Father (John 6:38, John 5:19, Mark 14:36).We who are disciples of Jesus must all deny our own selfish will and desires (Galatians 5:24, Luke 9:23).
7. Shepherds are eager, willing, and humble (1 Peter 5)
True leaders of God’s people are like good shepherds. They are eager to labor for God’s family, they do it willingly and not for prospering financially, and they are immensely humble. It is also rare to find church leaders who will not desert their flock for a bigger paycheck or a better location. And so many elders want to be seen and treated as ones on top, not as servants. The like the respect and honor that comes with fancy titles like Senior Pastor, Reverend, etc.
8. Partaking of God’s Nature: The greatest perk of the New Covenant (2 Peter 1:4)
When we think of the greatest perk of living under the New Covenant, nothing beats the opportunity to partake (intimate fellowship) with the Divine Nature. The depth of this benefit grows as we see that Divine Nature is different from Divine Virtues. We get to partake and fellowship intimately with the very Nature of God – that is infinite in love and compassion, and that absolutely abhors sin. If this is really true, and if we really are able to partake of this Divine Nature, then the attributes of that nature will rub off on us. As we seek to live in constant close communion with God’s Nature itself, our desires for sin will decrease, and our desires for love and compassion will increase.
9. The supreme importance of God’s Word (2 Peter 1:16-21)
Nobody in the history of mankind experienced miracles quite like Peter. He alone walked on water, and he was one of only 3 who saw the transfigured Christ. But now moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter puts all those experiences in perspective: God’s written Word was a surer foundation than every great experience in his life.
Peter was echoing what Jesus told Thomas (John 20:29) that there was a greater blessing on those who believe in God and Jesus without needing any physical proof or evidence through external signs (1 Peter 1:8).
10. The tremendous deception of false prophets (2 Peter 2)
With the supremacy of God’s Word to guide us in all areas, Peter gives us some key characteristics of false prophets
a) False teachers are driven secretly by sensuality and greed (v2- 3,13-16,18). Love for honor or money, or sexual lust are tell-tale signs of false teacher.
b) False teachers use the supernatural as their subtle appeal to legitimacy (v10-11). We are on guard against signs, knowing that an evil generation seeks for signs.
c) False teachers might have started out well but their lives now enslaved to some sin (v20-22). We must not be fooled by past spiritual authenticity.
d) False teachers promise a lot; but do not deliver spiritual life or satisfaction (v17). They are like mist to a man dying of thirst.
If we are fierce in our assessment of those who teach God’s Word using these points, we will be protected from deception. If instead we are driven by what our eyes see, or what our emotions feel, or by mere intellectual satisfaction, we will be deceived.
11. Jesus is surely coming back (2 Peter 3:3-13)
It is easy to get complacent that the Lord is not coming. The mindset that creeps in can end up saying, “All continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (v4). But Peter exhorts us to reject such a mindset. We live even closer to the return of Jesus than Peter did, and so this warning is even more relevant now. God’s return is sooner now than ever before, but it is as certain as when Jesus said and the apostles affirmed it as well. God is not slow about His promise to return; He is simply being patient for all to come to repentance. Let us be always open and quick to repent.
12. We don’t need to be intellectual smart; just teachable and grounded (2 Peter 3:14-18)
Peter was not able to understand everything that Paul wrote, but this did not bother Peter nor make Peter jealous. Still, Peter gave Paul one of the greatest compliments: He equated Paul’s writing with Scripture (v16). This speaks to the great humility of Peter to commend Paul, the one who had publicly rebuked him years earlier (Galatians 2:11-17).
Peter also drives home the truth that we do not need a high IQ or deep intellectual smartness. God has given us all that is needed for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) – and being intellectually smart is definitely not needed to live a spiritually godly life. What we need to do is to maintain a teachable heart, and to be rooted and grounded in love (1 Peter 4:8) – rather than remaining untaught and unstable (v16). This will protect us from distorting anything in Scripture and thereby causing our destruction.
There is an immense need for God’s people to be secure in God’s infinite love for us. When we are stable and so grounded in God’s love, then we will be teachable, and will not compare ourselves with others nor have any complaint against God.
I praise God for the divine wisdom that Peter found. His life and writings show us that we do NOT need a high IQ or lofty intellectual ideas to have divine wisdom. The wisdom of God that confounds the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 1:21) is given by God to all those who fear Him (Proverbs 9:10).
If we pay close attention to his words, and take it in with simplicity like simple newborn babes, we will surely “grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).