As It Was In The Days Of Noah (30): 2 Peter 1:16–21 (Part 1)

In considering the origins of idolatry, Calvin considers some theories by some pagan writers (profanos scriptores—unhappily translated in the Battles edition as “secular writers”) and the pervasiveness of idolatry even among the covenant people under the types and shadows and he concludes, “hence we may gather that human nature is a perpetual workshop of idols.” Continue reading →

As It Was In The Days Of Noah (29): 2 Peter 1:12–15

Peter knew that his pilgrimage was coming to a close. He says so in verse 14 in our passage: “I know that the removal (ἀπόθεσις) of my tent (σκηνώματός) is soon.” Continue reading →

As It Was In The Days Of Noah (28): 2 Peter 1:3–11 (part 4)

The Christian life is not the instrument of salvation. To attempt to make it so is a self-defeating move, since none of us, in this life, shall attain perfect sanctification. Thus, all of us fall short of the mark. This is undeniably true. In that case, we are left to going back to the dog’s breakfast of the late-medieval doctrine of congruent merit, the doctrine rejected by the entire Reformation, that God imputes perfection to our imperfect efforts unto justification and salvation. Continue reading →

As It Was In The Days Of Noah (27): 2 Peter 1:3–11 (part 3)

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins (2 Pet 1:8–9; ESV). Continue reading →

As It Was In The Days Of Noah (27): 2 Peter 1:3–11 (part 2)

3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, . . . Continue reading →

As It Was In The Days Of Noah (26): 2 Peter 1:3–11 (part 1)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. Continue reading →

As It Was In The Days Of Noah (25): 2 Peter 1:1–2

The over-arching theme that unites these two epistles is what I have been calling the “Noah Paradigm.” Our Lord appealed to this way of thinking in his Oliver Discourse (Matt 24:37): “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man comes.” Our Lord was characterizing the inter-adventure age. He was giving us a way to think about our life between his ascension and his return Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (24): Stand Firm In The True Grace Of God (1 Peter 5:12–14)

Throughout these notes on 1 Peter I have considered how the suffering of the Christians in Rome might have affects the way the Christians in Asia Minor looked at their Christian faith and life. Martyrdom was not a mere theory. It happened under Nero about the time that Peter wrote his epistles. If the ancient tradition of the church is correct (Luther accepted and Calvin did not), that Peter wrote from Rome, then “Babylon” in v. 13 is figurative. This seems most likely. Placing him in Rome hardly makes him a pope. The evidence for any papal office or authority—or even a monepiscopacy!—in Rome is completely lacking in the 1st century and there is no notion of a papacy in the 2nd century. In the 2nd century the word επσκοπος (episcopos; bishop) means something rather more like “senior pastor” than “regional manager.” Peter is no more permanently “the rock” (Matt 16:18) than he is “anti-Christ” (Matt 16:23). When he confessed Christ, he was the rock. When he denied Christ, he was anti-Christ. Most likely, according to the tradition of the church, Mark was with Peter in Rome and it was to that context that he wrote his gospel, as a summary of the Apostle’s teaching and ministry there. Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (23e): Theology Of The Cross (1 Peter 5:6–11)

6Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a . . . Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (23d): You Are Not Alone (1 Peter 5:6–11)

Politicians have often been tempted to declare “Peace in Our Time.” The most notorious example of this folly is the 1938 declaration by the Prime Minister of Great Britain that he and the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler had reached an accord to prevent war between them. Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (23c): Lions Are Real (1 Peter 5:6–11)

Occasionally, in Scripture, we are given glimpses of the spiritual realities behind the scenes, as it were. One thinks of the chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:15–17) that surrounded Elisha. They were present but unseen until Yahweh opened the servant’s eyes. In Zechariah 3:1–2 we are given a glimpse of a scene in which Satan is accusing Joshua the high priest. There is too that mysterious note in 2 Chronicles 21:1 in which Satan is said to have “stood up against Israel” (NASB95) and provoked David to perform a census in Israel. The spiritual realities and battles to which we are given an occasional glimpse burst, however, through the back curtain and on to center stage during the earthly ministry of our Savior Jesus. In the gospels we see Satan tempting Christ (e.g., Matt 4:1–11). He enters Judas (John 13:27) and demonic activity seems to increase dramatically during Jesus’s ministry (e.g., Matt 8:16; 8:29; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22; 17:18). Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (23b): Cross Now, Glory Later (1 Peter 5:6–11)

The Christians of Asia Minor were being tested under difficult circumstances. They were being challenged and even harassed because of their Christian faith. We know that some of them were slaves and faced the temptation of disobeying unjust masters. It is not difficult for us to imagine how Christians were regarded by a surrounding culture that was largely pagan because that is the world in which you and I now live. We know that the Christians were misunderstood as being arrogant because they refused to go along with established Greco-Roman religious worship. They could not acknowledge Caesar (just now, Nero) as a deity. Their worship was misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented. In the second century they were suspected of being a death cult because of their talk about Jesus’ death, of worshiping the cross—which would have provoked the Romans particularly to disgust—because of their theology of the cross. We know that later they were accused of cannibalism because of the Christian doctrine that, in the Lord’s Supper, by the mysterious operation of the Spirit, the risen Christ feeds believers with his body and blood. Beyond all this, doubtless they had or would soon have news of the lies told about the Christians by Caesar and their martyrdom at Caesar’s hands in Rome. Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (23a): Cross Now, Glory Later (1 Peter 5:6–11)

Peter invokes the Exodus deliberately. Throughout the epistle he has been trying to help his original readers in Asia Minor and us to understand where we are in the history of salvation. Perhaps the predominate imagery has come from Noah. We are like those waiting for the ark to be built, waiting for deliverance from the coming deluge of judgment. Here, however, he shifts the imagery to the exodus. We are the Israel of God, united by grace alone, through faith alone, to the risen Christ. We are in Egypt, as it were. We are believers, for whom God has sent the one greater than Moses. We are aliens and strangers in Egypt. We live under a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph (Ex 1:8). Like the Israelites, we are surrounded by pagans who misunderstand us and who sometimes abuse us. That is a hard providence. In order to submit to it and to the the sovereign Lord who ordained it, we must be assured that it is ordained for our good and his glory, even if we cannot see how it is all working out. Surely that was true of the Israelites? How often over the centuries of their captivity must they have wondered why Yahweh had ordained their captivity? Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (22c): Serving The Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–5)

In our youth-obsessed culture (with how many advertisements for ostensible “age-reversing” products are we bombarded daily?) it is a good reminder that Christians may not despise the older. It is plain foolishness for younger Christians to ignore the wisdom who have been making the Christian pilgrimage to the heavenly city longer than they. Our older brothers and sisters have experience in the Christian life that younger believers ordinarily do not have. They have been reading the Word longer. They have struggled in prayer, with doubt, and temptation longer than we have. Speaking experientially, they have also known the grace (favor) of God longer than we. Why would we not listen to them and learn from them? Why we would we not submit to them, whether or not they hold special office? Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (22b): Serving The Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–5)

The Kingdom of God is a reversal of the order of this world. In this world, the first are first and the last are last. It is cut-throat and Darwinian, red in tooth and claw, but in the Kingdom of God the last are first and the first are last. This is the difference between grace and works. Works gives what is earned but grace gives to those who cannot, who would not, what they did not earn. So, as a consequence, ministry in the kingdom is on a different order, a different paradigm. Jesus is the model of ministry in the kingdom. The Son of Man was the suffering servant who as abused, stricken, and finally murdered for us, in our place, as our substitute. He did not suffer for himself. He did not obey for himself. His obedient suffering was for us, in our place, and all that he did is credited to us who believe and even our believing is a gift from God. Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (22a): Serving The Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–5)

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Roman claims about an alleged Petrine papacy, apart from the utter lack of historical evidence for any such thing, is that Peter did use two different nouns to characterize his offices and ministry, apostle (ἀπόστολος) and presbyter (πρεσβύτερος). As a matter of fact, the papacy per se did not really come to exist until well the 4th century and even then its occasional claims to authority were rebuffed. As late as the 7th century Gregory I (c. 540–604), who was arguably the first Roman bishop to begin to exercise anything like the authority attributed to later popes, rejected the idea of a universal episcopal see. Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (21d): Be Not Surprised By Fiery Trials (1 Peter 4:12–19)

We live in the season or epoch (καιρὸς) of redemptive history, after the ascension and before the return of Christ, in which, from time to time, we face both informal and formal persecution for the sake of Christ. When Peter’s words might be understood to say, “For this is the season for judgment (κρίμα) to begin (ἄρξασθαι) from (ἀπὸ) God’s house…”. As Johnson notes, this is the pattern in Malachi. We might see also the whole history of national Israel from the beginning of the national covenant to its dissolution in the exile. The Lord repeatedly entered into judgment with his people and he began with them before he commissioned his (then) national people to commence holy war against the surrounding nations. These judgments were acts of purification of his people, which gets us back to the language of vs.12 above. The fire upon God’s house (following Johnson) is the fire of purification, of sanctification through suffering. Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (21c): Be Not Surprised By Fiery Trials (1 Peter 4:12–19)

12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when . . . Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (21b): Be Not Surprised By Fiery Trials (1 Peter 4:12–19)

12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when . . . Continue reading →

Strangers And Aliens (20a): Be Not Surprised By Fiery Trials (1 Peter 4:12–19)

Peter was a theologian of the cross, a theologian of suffering, not a theologian of glory. He would never understand those theological systems that anticipate an earthly glory age (e.g., Dominionism, Reconstructionism, Prosperity theology), whether a literal 1000 years (chiliasm) or a figurative millennial glory brought on by gospel preaching (modern post-millennialism). According to some of the Christian Reconstructionists/Dominion theologies, suffering for Christ is only until we gain political power. They tend to treat passages such as these in a quasi-Dispensational fashion, as if turning the other cheek is “for then” but not “for now.” By contrast, For Peter, suffering is the natural state of the Christian in the last days, i.e., that period of redemptive history inaugurated by the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. This approach is also quite opposite that of modern “prosperity” preachers. Theirs is a false gospel, i.e., to say no gospel at all. The gospel is not that God will financially prosper those who do whatever the prosperity preachers tell them to do. The gospel is that Jesus is our representative, that he obeyed the law in our place, that he was crucified in our place, that he was raised for our justification, and that he ascended and is reigning now. We receive the benefits of his work for us by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide). In his mysterious providence, God sometimes materially prospers his people (e.g., Abraham) and sometimes he makes them sit on an ash heap while they scrape their wounds (see Job). There is no magic prayer and no donation to a prosperity preacher has anything to do with Christian faith, piety, or practice. To confess that sinful human beings can control God is nothing but paganism. Continue reading →