Stay with God: Devotional commentary for December 29, 2019-January 4 2020
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
The opening words of Peter's first letter are rich as well as focused. He starts out by identifying himself as the Apostle of Jesus Christ, being one of the original Disciples called, appointed, and commissioned by the Lord Himself. Then he specifically addresses his letter to believers residing throughout Asia Minor, a large region to the North and North-West of Jerusalem. At the time:
- Pontus was a Roman province on the southern border of the Black Sea.
- Galatia, the central province, was populated mostly by Gauls and Greeks.
- Cappadocia, the largest province, was in what is now East Central Turkey.
- Asia was a Roman province on the western side of Asia Minor, bordering the Aegean Sea.
- Bithynia was North of Galatia along the southern shores of the Black Sea.
Church historians tell us that many Jewish and Gentile Christians fled to these outer regions of the Roman Empire to escape Nero's vengeful campaign against the followers of Christ. He spitefully held Christians responsible for the burning of Rome. Being personally aware of their plight, Peter sent this epistle to the pilgrims scattered throughout these regions urging them to courageously face persecution by being aware of their true identity in Christ.
Peter implied in his opening salutation that these are not just-suffering-Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire. He wanted them to know that they are God's elect children chosen unto salvation even before they entered this passing life. They have always been in God's Foreknowledge as God's redeemed children.
Although passing strangers to this world, they are not unknown to God. They have already been redeemed by His sovereign determination, as it is true for all believers across the ages. They are the redeemed of god inspired into obedience-of-faith in Jesus Christ, having been sprinkled clean and righteous by His Blood.
They are not just Christians hated by Rome. They are God's children drawn and sanctified by the Spirit, redeemed and cleansed by the Blood of Jesus Christ, and declared just and accepted as righteous by God. Hence, Peter greets them with God's Peace and Grace to the fullest measure, not as pitiable fugitive but as the children of Grace and Peace.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Moved by such undeserved love of the Father, Peter inspires his brethren with a heartily confessed praise, acknowledging that believers are God’s children of Mercy and Grace. He insisted that His suffering brethren understand that God's children were born anew in Jesus Christ into a living Hope secured through His Death and His Resurrection. Nothing on earth or in creation can undermine Christ's living Hope given to those born again by the Will of God our Father. They are not the victims of vengeful persecution. They are God's elect, born into Christ's living Hope, divinely sanctioned to rise above persecution in triumph.
Knowing that these suffering Christians were overwhelmed by the hateful persecution waged against them, Peter sought to help them understand the incomparable value of their new life in Christ. The second birth of the once-lost-sinner is not merely the extension of life in a different realm. The new birth caused and initiated by God gives the redeemed a living Hope which ushers God's children into a heavenly inheritance which is imperishable and incorruptible
In this earthly life everything is constantly changing and moving toward decay and death because of sin. But the believers' inheritance in heaven is undefiled, pure, perfect, and unchanging. So Peter sought to transform their perspective so that they might view their present suffering in light of their living Hope in Christ and their imperishable inheritance with Him.
It was also necessary that these persecuted Christians knew that they were not just saved. But God's elect are redeemed and eternally preserved by God. God's children are not left alone to fend for themselves. God is almighty and all-powerful, the ultimate ruler over all forces—human or spiritual—and it is by His awesome power that believers are sustained and preserved, as each one makes one's journey through the path of life and experiences individually allotted to them by God in keeping with His sovereign Will and unsearchable Wisdom.
John tells us in his Gospel that Jesus said:
28"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
Isaiah reiterates this eternal truth with these enduring words:
6"Look at the sky.
Look at the earth below.
The sky will vanish like smoke.
The earth will wear out like clothing,
and those who live there will die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
and my righteousness will never fail."
"My salvation will last forever, and my righteousness will never fail. Fear not the reproach of men". says God to the people in whose heart God's Law is written, to those who follow after righteousness, those who seek the Lord, to those who know His law, to those who are God's elect: the children of Grace and Mercy.
We just celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. But it wasn't just Christmas. It was the first coming of our Lord. Peter and the rest of the apostles were inspired to unfold the true meaning of our Lord's first coming. Christ came to fulfill His Father's Will: to fulfill the law and to be the Way, the Life, and the Truth. To save the lost.
The opening passage of Peter's first letter overflows with encouraging affirmations of the riches of God's Grace and Mercy toward us. It is one of Scripture's keynote passages, explaining the irrevocable Grace which our Father has extended to us in and through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. Inspired by the Holy Spirit and informed by his own experience, Peter writes to all believers, reminding us that we are safe and secure in the living hope and the sure salvation we have been given by our sovereign Father, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
Writing directly to his fellow-believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire because of persecution, Peter acknowledges that they lived as strangers in this world and were forced to survive as displaced persons not welcome by the world and even their own people. But Peter stresses that the transforming power of God's redemption gives us inner strength and courage, enabling us to firmly stand in the face of daunting hostility.
Peter does not deny the realities of the hardship and tremendous anguish caused by persecution. But he, nevertheless, encourages believers to recognize that persecution is but the bitter outcome of the world's reaction to the testimony of God's sovereign Will and Purpose revealed in the lives and services of His children. So he emphasizes that we need to understand who we are in Jesus Christ instead of reacting in fear and shame to the way the world sees us.
We are a new creation in Christ safe and secure in His redemption. Our finite mind cannot comprehend God's sovereign Purpose and Action on such a divine realm. We are confined by the bounds of time and the limitations of our finite mind, but god is timeless, All-wise, All-knowing, and sovereign. He is God. We are not. Those whom He has chosen, God has caused to be drawn into faith by the Holy Spirit and nurtured by Him to obey the regenerative promptings of the Holy Spirit and begin a life of faith, having been cleansed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God.
Peter knew by the revelation of the Holy Spirit that, only by God's Grace and Mercy would those who are called to faith respond in obedience when touched by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of God's sovereign Grace. In its natural state, that is apart from God, the human mind cannot comprehend it, because the natural mind has neither the understanding nor the desire to choose God. It is dead to the things of God and sinfully consumed by its own self-centered ways.
Peter also tells us that we are, not only born into a new life, but also preserved by God so that nothing or no one is able to undermine our position with our Father in heaven. We are safe and secure in God. Therefore, since we belong to God, we should not be disheartened or discouraged by what happens to us at the hands of the ungodly world.
We live in this world for God, favored by Him but feared and resisted by the world. Nevertheless, we keep the beacon of the Gospel lighted with a worthy life and a fruitful service. We stay with God. He never forsakes us, to the end.