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).