With Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in San Angelo, TX., I have had the honor of preaching through the book of 1 Peter. This past week, we got as far as 2:17 in our study. Reflecting on the study thus far, and looking forward to where we are headed, I have come to the conclusion that everything in the first half of 1 Peter flows out of the reality of the new birth (1Pt. 1:3).
As a result of the new birth:
1) …we have a new relationship with God (1:1-21).
2) …we have a new relationship with one another (1:22-2:3).
3) …we have a new relationship with unbelievers (2:4-3:17):
a) …unbelieving Jews (2:4-12).
b) …unbelieving civil authorities (2:13-17).
c) …unbelieving masters (2:18-20)
(In all this Christ is our example; 2:21-25)
d) …unbelieving husbands (3:1-6).
e) …unbelieving wives (3:7).
4) …we are to love as brothers (3:8-12).
5) …we will suffer (3:13-17).
Hopefully this serves as a helpful outline for those of you who would like to engage the book of 1 Peter a little deeper. I was almost done with the first chapter of the book before I realized this was what Peter was doing with his argumentation. Let me flesh it out a little further though for those of you who may be a bit skeptical of my approach here.
New Relationship with God
Peter starts by securing our new relationship with God in eternity past through the election of God’s people (1:1-2). Understanding how our new relationship with God is rooted in eternity past gives us great security. He will go one to explain how our relationship with God is also being kept secure in the here and now.
First, he points us to the new birth itself (1:3-9). We are born again to a living hope, an inheritance being kept in heaven for us who are being kept by God Himself. We rejoice in this new standing we have before God as heirs of the promise, even though now we are sojourners in a land where we are persecuted strangers. We have a home, a glorious family awaiting us in heaven. The hope and assurance of that great promise sustains us through our trials.
Second, we have this hope revealed to us this side of the incarnation. We are a privileged generation in that we have these great mysteries revealed to us. The prophets prophesied of the Messiah to come, the things He would suffer, and the glories that would follow, but they did not have as full a revelation as we now have.
Third, as a result of this new birth, this inheritance we have received as sons of God, we have a new relationship with Him. We are no longer children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2; 5:6; Col. 3:6). Rather, we are now called children of obedience. As such, our behavior is to reflect what we truly are as a result of having born again into the family of God (1Pt. 1:13-21).
New Relationship with One Another
Also, as a result of our new birth, we have new brothers and sisters. We have brothers and sisters in the flesh, but flesh is like grass. “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (1:24-25a). By contrast, our inheritance and relationships with our new family are imperishable (1:22-25).
Our new relationships with one another yield new behaviors (2:1-3). As a result of our new birth, we now have familial obligations and familial motivations. We seek unity rather than division, and this new motivation effects how we live in fellowship with one another. We put aside devices of discord and cling to the One who builds up the body: Christ Jesus.
New Relationship with Unbelievers
As a result of our new birth, we have been grafted into true Israel (2:4-12). Paul taught that unbelieving Jews in the New Covenant have been broken off so that believing Gentiles might be grafted in (Rom. 11:17-24). This is part of a greater argument Paul made about his unbelieving brothers in the flesh starting in Romans 9. Peter refers to these unbelieving Jews as builders. We know he has unbelieving Jews in mind because he quotes the same verses Paul quotes in his argumentation in Romans 9-11.
We also know that he is referring to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles who are being grafted into true Israel because he applies uniquely Jewish titles to the New Covenant believing community. He describes the church as a temple being built and we are the stones and we are the priests, with Christ as the Capstone / Cornerstone. In fact, Peter calls us a royal priesthood and a holy nation. We ought not to take this to mean that we have replaced Israel, though. We have not. We have merely been grafted into true Israel. As such, true Israel has taken on a new shape.
As a result of the new birth, we also have a new relationship with civil government (2:13-17). Just as I would expect my kids to obey any adults with whom I would leave them, God expects us to honor the authorities He has placed in our lives. To disobey and dishonor the civil authorities God has established in our lives is to disobey and dishonor God.
We also have a new relationship to our masters as a result of the new birth (2:18-20). This has particular application in our day and age where people hold so loosely to their commitments to their employers. In Peter’s day, you entered into a contractual agreement with your master. It was much like joining the military. If a man were to come to a church and say, “I went AWOL from the military, because my sergeant was an unbeliever,” our proper response would be to tell him he needs to return and honor his enlistment. In the same way, Christian employees should not be flippant about jumping from job to job simply because their employers are unbelievers. We need to honor our commitments and show honor to our bosses.
Christ is our example in these things (2:21-25). When He was slandered and reviled, He did not revile in return. He willingly submitted to His persecutors and, as such, He was submitting to the will of God. We do not know the will of God for our lives or what He is orchestrating for our future, so we ought to humble ourselves and submit to the hardships we will receive as a result of our new relationship to the world.
Our new birth does not give us license to divorce or liberty to ill-treat our spouses (3:1-7). Rather, wives are to respect and submit to their unbelieving husbands. Husbands, are likewise to deal with their unbelieving wives in an understanding way and not to domineer them. When I was first introduced to the Doctrines of Grace, I tried to force-feed them to my wife. This is not how wives learn. We need to be patient with them and allow them to sit under the word and be convinced by God, not our forcefulness.
Love for the Brethren
Once again, Peter returns to our familial motivations / obligations (3:8-12). As a result of the new birth, we are to deal with one another with brotherly affections. This will result in certain heart motivations, which will then lead to changes in the way that we behave toward one another.
The Suffering to Follow
If we commit all of these things to memory and allow them to shape us and motivate us in how we walk in this world, we will have hardship. The world hates Christ. As those who are being made over in His image, they will hate us. We are to be ready to give a defense in the face of the trials that come our way. However, we must do so in fear and solemnity, recognizing that we represent our holy Father who is in heaven, and we have a brotherhood who will reap the consequences for our misdeeds in the flesh.