Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Dec 19, 1 Pet 1-5

Today's readings are 1 Pet 1-5. Tomorrow's are Heb 1-6.

The churches in what is now known as the northern region of Asia Minor were suffering serious persecution and in a state of confusion. Peter gives some startling guidance to their predicament. 

1 Pet 1 and the first 10 verses of chapter two exhort the churches to hold fast to the faith and live godly lives, not worshiping the pagan gods of their towns and cities but remembering they are called to be holy and wholly devoted to the one true God. Apparently, it would be easier for some of those folks who are being persecuted to just adapt their ways to suit the culture. Others seem to be getting angry at those who are persecuting them. Instead of compromising their faith or expressing their anger, Peter tells them to seek spiritual growth, setting aside anger, malice, greed and other fleshly pursuits. They are to pursue spiritual "milk" (nourishment) through the teaching and study of the word.

1 Pet 2:11-4:11 gives them instructions on how to live in a secular society so as to be witnesses to the gospel and to minimize persecution even though it will never be completely avoided. They should understand they are aliens and strangers. They should avoid sinful desires, respect and honor those in authority and recognize that it is God who establishes all rule and authority and God who will call all into account. If they are slaves, they are to submit, with all respect, to their masters. If they are masters, they are to treat their slaves with compassion. Families should function in the same manner, each submitting to the other and both unto God. Their lives are to be led in a quiet manner, in harmony with others in the church, not trading anger for anger but anger for a blessing, always prepared to share the gospel. God will be the final judge for everyone.

Peter wants them to understand that their lives are no longer centered on their desires and drive toward self-fulfillment, but are now focused on demonstrating the glory and grace of God to a tainted world. The more they are like the world, the more difficult it will be to show godliness and holiness. They must be set apart and live in a manner that shows it.

The remainder of the book deals with living in severe persecution. They should not be surprised. Christ told them they would suffer for following Him. They should be imitators of Christ, rejoicing in Him and feeling blessed to be so closely associated with Him that people react to them the same way they did Him.

They should understand that judgment begins, not with the world but with the church. God will not condemn His church through this judgment, but make it stronger. He will also refine His people through the oppression the church experiences. The trials of the church, even though they rise up from a fallen and desperately lost world, will cause the church to grow stronger.

As such, the church must bear the characteristics of a godly community. Elders are to be treated with honor and respect. The younger among them should be subject to the older, all of them clothed in humility. God will soon shed His grace on those who are faithful. 

The guidance Peter brings is antithetical to the wisdom of the world. But, it is the wisdom of God, given to the church in order for them to be testimonies to His holiness. His church will not be evaluated by how successful or popular it is but by how it handles trials. 

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