Partners with the Holy Spirit: Part #32

In Peter’s view, who and what were the people who would partner with the Spirit of God in the new Israel? Peter, like Paul, had never lost hope that Israel would be delivered from foreign domination and re-emerge as a new godly people. Very similar to the Babylonian captivity, God was using the Gentiles to awaken and to chastise the Jews for their role in God’s everlasting promise. Paul echoed this hope in his letter to the Romans and so did Peter in his writings from Babylon (Rome).

Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel the are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards his election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:25-36).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Be subject for the lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (I Peter 2:9-17).

Peter’s Message to the Dispersed was Similar to Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiled

Salvation, for Peter was both personal, and national. Moses could not turn Israel into a holy nation, into a Kingdom of Priests, and in persuading Israel to serve their God (Exodus 19:5-6). Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, was doing it in the dispersion, like Jeremiah’s Letter did for the exiles (Jeremiah 29:4-23). Peter, Paul, and the other disciples had not given up on the idea that Jesus was soon coming back to grant prominence to Israel over the nations in the world. And Jesus could not answer their question because even Jesus did not know (Acts 1:6-7). Salvation of Israel was incomplete until Jesus again would reveal Himself, and He would restore the glory of Israel. With Jesus first coming, the cornerstone and the foundation had been laid and the rebuilding of Israel had begun. Next, the Jewish Christians anticipated that the Lamb of God would descend on Mount Zion with his followers and take over the reign of the nations. It was assumed that the Lamb of God would be a sociology-political system under theocratic control, as predicted by the prophets and the visionaries. Jesus, Himself, was dubious as to what His Kingdom would be like. In addition, to being a moral and spiritual life style (Luke 17:21), Jesus promised his disciples to be in charge over the twelve tribes (Matthew 19:27-28). When Jesus returns, He would be welcomed (Luke 13:35), and Jesus would enjoy a drink of wine with his disciples (Mark 14:25). It also was assumed that all of these appearances would take place in the Holy City or on Mount Zion.     

Therefore thus says the LORD God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion (Jerusalem) for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation: ‘He who believes will not be in haste.’ And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter” (Isaiah 28:16-17).

And he (Christ) will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the LORD, from this time forth and for evermore (Isaiah 59:20-21).

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Then I (John) looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless (Revelation 14:1-5).

And the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to thee, Lord God almighty, who art and who wast, that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign.

The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear they name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, and earthquake, and heavy hail (Revelation 11:15-19).

How to Live as a Stranger among Angry People filled with Animosity and Suspicion?

While my father was a Polish soldier facing the German army, our mother, two brothers, and I lived through a horrifying ordeal from which we never recovered. Then, a fire put me in a hospital for eighteen months and disabled me for life. But even all that was minor in comparison to what Peter and his fellow Christians faced by persecution, suffering, and death. For us, after World War II, we were not allowed to return to our home or to our country; nevertheless, we were free to move elsewhere. Peter had no such options. His Lord’s prediction became a way of life for loving his Lord, the Christ. Vicarious suffering for Peter was unavoidable, and so it became for all Christians who took their faith serious.

“Truly, truly, I (Jesus) say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked were you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you ad carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This he said to show by what death he (Peter) was to glorify God) (John 21:18-19).

The advice Jesus gave to Peter, Peter passed on to his dispersed brethren in these words, “turn the other cheek” and “do not resist evil.” My mother’s brother was dragged into a torture chamber. He fell to his knees and prayed for these torturers, and they could not lay a hand on him, and they walked out. But my uncle’s heart could not take seeing what these evil men had done to innocent people just because they were not of their race. Please read Peter with this in mind, for that is what Christians have been facing throughout history. Will our faith hold up when we face what Peter faced and follow his advice? Especially women must not overplay their femininity.

Servants, be submissive to your masters with respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is t, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husband, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior. Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.

Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “He that would love life and see good day, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him run away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil” (I Peter 2:18-3:12).

Vicarious Suffering made Peter and his Fellow Believers Better People

Jesus taught his disciples that doing what was right, would motivate unbelievers to respect God (Matthew 5:16). The world cannot read a Christian’s faith without his deeds. This is even more so when evil people take credit for the good one does for them. Christians were not to take credit for the good they do, for it is part of their nature to do well in what is expected of them (Matthew 5:43-48). When a Christian assumes the nature of Christ, he/she displays it in their actions and deeds. It meant to confess and stand up for Christ. Peter had first hand experience when he tried to stand up for Christ and ended up denying him as being the Son of God and his Lord. Jesus had warned Peter that he, alone, was not strong enough to face the reprimands of following the true Christ whom the authority would sentence to death. Peter did repent! And Peter did strengthen Christ’s followers. Mark and Luke reconstructed the Jesus’ warning and Peter’s reactions. Peter and Silas wrote to strengthen the brethren.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I Say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same (Mark 14:26-31).

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me” (Luke 22:31-34).

Then they seized him (Jesus) and laid him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance; and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then the maid, seeing him as he sat in the light and gazing at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later some one else saw him and said, “You also are one of them. “But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.”

And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out, and wept bitterly (Luke 22:54-62).

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you do suffer for righteousness sake,you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him (I Peter 3:13-22).