Growing in Grace and the Knowledge of Jesus Christ: Peter’s Hope

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Growing in Grace and the Knowledge of Jesus Christ: Peter’s Hope

 

Growing in grace is Peter’s bedrock for living the Christian life. It’s how we as Christians live in expectant hope (1 Pet. 1:3–12), live holy lives in society and in the home (1 Pet. 1:13–3:7), suffer for our faith while serving others (1 Pet. 3:8–5:11), develop Christian virtues (2 Pet. 1:1–11), listen to the prophetic word, avoiding erroneous teaching (2 Pet. 1:12–2:22), and proclaim Christ’s second coming with certitude (2 Pet. 3). I encourage all of us to read 1 and 2 Peter in one sitting and contemplate how Peter urges us to grow in grace in various ways and settings. Reading through the books again highlighted for me some themes that instruct us about living for God and living a life of grace.

Living for God’s Glory

Reading Peter makes it evident that one major theme is God’s glory. His glory is expressed at every juncture in the Christian life.

  • Christ’s resurrection demonstrates God’s glory (1 Pet. 1:11, 21; 2 Pet. 1:17).
  • The testing of our faith results in glory (1 Pet. 1:17), while human glory fades (1 Pet. 1:24).
  • The presence of the Spirit of glory and of God is present where Christians suffer for Christ (1 Pet. 4:14).
  • Rebellion against God typically is expressed as rebellion against His agents of grace (2 Pet. 2:10).
  • Christian living expresses God’s glory and sovereignty over the world (1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Pet. 1:3; 3:18).
  • God’s glory will be revealed in whole when Christ returns and we will partake in it (1 Pet. 4:13; 5:1, 4, 10).

Did you notice that Peter’s emphasis on the glory of God started with Christ’s resurrection? A few lessons ago we discovered that the revelation of Christ is intimately associated with the resurrection of Christ. Peter’s first and last word on the glory of God emphasizes these two events, and should guide our lives from start to finish. The starting point and aim of Christian living is to receive the gift of God’s grace so that He may be glorified.[1] If that is indeed our objective, we will happily do all those things Peter encourages us to practice because we are not depending on our own strength and we are not doing it to receive praise. It seems we often struggle in life because we lose sight of glorifying God as the object of Christian life. We were not created to be praised or worshipped. Whether religious or not, self-seeking for personal adoration or failing to give God praise and adoration for His blessings to us, will always distort people’s appreciation and reverence for how awesome God is.

Living a Life of Holiness

One of the most dangerous Christian clichés is “God takes you as you are;” it is dangerous because the rest of the cliché is often left out, “but He never leaves you as you came.” Obedience is not a popular word in Christianity (especially in the West) today. If the climate of Christian thought is any indication of the general populace, you would think that being obedient is more of a problem than sin is. But then again, sin, is not seen as exceedingly sinful as described by Peter. Sadly, as some reputable surveys of Christian belief and practice show, we are thinking and living more and more like an unrepentant world that is indifferent or adversarial towards the faith we claim to hold dear.[2] What’s even more telling is how holiness is relegated to “spiritual” activities, but often has little impact on “everyday” living.[3] A life of holiness is not a “lifeless existence” devoid of joy and fulfillment. In fact, that is Peter’s point in 1 Peter 1:14–15, when he says that obedience to God expresses our relationship with Him, for He is holy so we should be holy. A simple cursory reading of the Bible would never leave us with the notion that being holy is boring or some austere life, lest by implication we assume God is like that. In fact, the psalmist makes it clear when he states, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Christians become easy prey for the roaring lion when we think we must take up the spirit of the world to have a fulfilling life. As Peter explains, God’s holiness expresses the deepest care, compassion, selflessness, justice, fairness, purity, and humility, and if we are partakers of His divine nature, we too would live a life full of these attributes.

Living, Regardless of Circumstances

Seeing people suffer brings pain to the heart of God, and so it should be with us. Yet, circumstances beyond our control often contribute to human suffering. Corrupt governments, unsavory business practices, unruly neighbors, selfishness, pride, indifference, the list could go on. While it is not God’s desire for anyone to suffer, His “God’s eye view” and providential leading allows sin to run its course. What that looks like in everyday life to a large degree is dependent on various factors. Our personal relationship with God often does not change circumstances. What it does do is helps us to trust God’s plan for our lives within His dealings in the world. The book of Peter helps us to rethink the question of “Why does God allow suffering?” to “Why is there suffering at all?” to “How do we respond to suffering?” If we understand, that for Christians, suffering can purify us, it would change the way we perceive personal suffering. As to suffering in general in the world, it reminds us that this is not God’s desire or design, but He has provided a better option than what this world has to offer. Peter thus urges us to understand the difference between suffering for our faith and general suffering in the world. The lines between the two are becoming blurred and Christians are more and more trying to change the circumstances that lead to suffering, which is a noble task in and of itself, but without addressing the ultimate and problematic nature of suffering: sin. Putting a politician in office, creating laws, enforcing ideologies may give an immediate sense of changing things for the better, but the unregenerate heart will eventually reveal itself. And we run the risk of depending on these methods until they become our main method for addressing suffering. God’s call is to holiness and if we become encumbered in worldly methods for change that do not lead to holiness, there is a strong chance we will accept the world’s mentality.

Final Thoughts and Encouragement for End-time Living

Peter’s emphasis on living a life wholly to God means a daily dying to self, sin, and Satan’s ways. Peter’s counsel carries deep and significant relevance for us as we face the impending crisis before Christ comes in glory. In the same vein, Ellen White brings clarity to how entanglements in the spirit of the world will impact us if we engage in man’s methods instead of submitting to God’s holiness. She states,

The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. . . In this time the gold will be separated from the dross in the church. (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 81.)

This sober message is meant to help us understand that God’s saving grace is the only method of transformation that enables us to be like God. What does that mean in practical terms? First, a test is coming to every person that will involve matters of conscience. Contrary to God’s way, the method of compulsion will be used in an attempt to “right the world” of human problems.[4] But God’s providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness and lowliness of Jesus. The only cessation to the suffering of the world as a whole is the second coming of Christ. Second, submitting to the spirit of the world is a process. As Christians, we have a fine line to walk. On the one hand, we are commanded to share the love of Christ so people may see what God’s Lordship and grace in the human heart is like and desire it. On the other hand, we cannot convert people to Christ; we are the evidence of God’s grace, not the source. Even a good work of service can be fraught with selfish motives and in blind self-centered efforts to “win” people to Christ the Gospel can be watered-down and made inoffensive to the carnal heart. The best thing we can do is to live a life committed to glorifying God, and leave the results with Him.

It has been a joy working though Peter with you and I would like to end our journey with a prayer.

Lord Jesus, You are coming soon and we want to meet You in peace. We pray that the focus of our hearts, motives, and lifestyle would be to glorify You in this dying world. We trust Your promise and pray that You would indeed give us everything we need in this life that pertains to godliness. Grant to us faithfulness and love to You that is stronger than anything, and use us to help others come to know You in a saving relationship. We love You God. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Read the Sabbath School Lesson for this week, “Major Themes in 1 and 2 Peter.”

Read more commentaries on this quarter’s Adult Sabbath School lesson.

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Notes.

[1] See Pss. 29:1–2; 34:3; 86:12; 96:1–3; 99:9; 118:28; Isa. 42:12.

[2] https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/

[3] http://www.pewforum.org/2016/04/12/religion-in-everyday-life/

[4] See The Great Controversy, p. 624.

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About the author

Jerome Skinner, earned his Ph.D as an Old Testament scholar at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. He focuses on the Psalms and Wisdom literature and on practical Christianity. Jerome is active in following American Christianity and social issues.