Sunday School Lesson
oct. 12, 2003
BE A GOOD EXAMPLE
Bible Background—1 PETER 2:11-5:14
Focal Verses—1 PETER 2:11-12; 3:13-17; 4:7-11; 5:8-10
Devotional Reading—GALATIANS 5:16-25
1. We will understand the importance of putting away every form of evil and defilement
2. We will commit to developing a lifestyle that acknowledges GOD’S HOLINESS and demonstrates HIS LOVE.
“Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles; that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify GOD in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
In this lesson Peter gives some advice for all believers—especially those who are suffering persecution. You are blessed if you suffer for doing what is right.
By way of background, 1Peter 4:8 states, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” The emphasis on love among the believers in Peter’s first epistle may be a bit surprising given that many of these believers were undergoing severe persecutions at the time. The answer lies in understanding that Peter, perhaps more than any other New Testament writer, could identify with the need for encouragement and love in the face of overwhelming adversity. More importantly, the need to be an example to fellow Christians was a lesson that had taken Peter most of his life to perfect. As one of JESUS’ earliest disciples, Peter was the one often corrected, reproved, and rebuked. It was Peter who, though probably motivated by love and concern, took JESUS aside and scolded HIM for prophesying HIS suffering and death. JESUS had to sternly rebuke Peter saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me” (Matthew 16:23a).
Although all of the apostles who accompanied JESUS into the Garden of Gethsemane went to sleep, JESUS most sternly rebuked Peter (Matthew 26:36-45). As we watch Peter’s spiritual progress from the Gospels through the Book of Acts, we witness his earlier lack of patience and impetuousness being replaced by reflectiveness, sobriety, and a deeper love for his fellow believers. It was Peter who spoke on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and several years later Peter was present at the house of Cornelius when the HOLY GHOST fell on the Gentiles for the first time. As a result of his spiritual maturity, Peter not only became a significant New Testament personality but a focal point in the implementation of the Church in the world (Acts 11:15).
1. RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT BEFORE MEN (1 Peter 2:11-12)
In these verses, Peter emphasizes that the Christian’s daily life must demonstrate his relationship with CHRIST. Christians must conduct their lives in a manner that honors CHRIST as their Redeemer. As we were reminded in last week’s lesson, earth is not our final home; we are merely sojourners, temporarily residing here. Therefore, Peter urges the believers to abstain from “fleshly lusts.” We must be careful to acknowledge that there is a constant war raging within each of us. While we are striving to serve and please GOD, our sinful flesh (which was, after all, conceived in sin) continues to war against the righteousness of GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT. The uncontrolled desires of the flesh induce us to commit acts that are displeasing to GOD. The only way believers are able to defeat the sinful lusts is by allowing GOD’S SPIRIT to operate freely in our lives.
Peter insists that life of the believer should be so exemplary that even “evildoers” or non-believers will have no choice but to admire and respect the Christian lifestyle. This emphasis on living righteously before non-believers is, perhaps, better understood when we consider that the first-century Christians were often accused of immorality, civil disobedience, and disloyalty to the government. These charges were refuted by the lives led by the Christians. It has often been said that Christianity lived touches more lives than Christianity preached. Are we living the type of lives that can refute claims of immorality?
2. BLESSED THROUGH SUFFERING (3:13-14, 17)
In chapter 3, Peter addresses those who are suffering for righteousness’ sake. He begins with a question: Can we be hurt if we are earnestly seeking to do good things? This question does not suggest that Peter was dismissive of the volatile situations those first-century believers faced. He was certainly aware that their testimony of CHRIST could cost them their property, their freedom, and even their lives. He is, instead, asking if the loss of any of those things harm the Christian testimony. Peter is teaching that the believer called to suffer for CHRIST should be happy. Here the word “happy” does not mean delighted or joyful; rather what Peter means is that the suffering believer should consider himself honored and privileged to suffer for his CHRIST. Peter urges the believers to “be not afraid of their terror” (v.14). He does not want them to become intimidated but to maintain their confidence in GOD and continue to acknowledge JESUS as LORD.
3. DEFENDING THE FAITH (vv.15-16)
During this period of persecution, it is highly probable that public worship was a risky undertaking for the Christians. Fear of retribution by the government may have induced the Christians to avoid gathering to worship in public. This may explain why Peter reminds them that true fellowship with GOD is spiritual; true worship takes place in the heart of the believer. Peter is not, however, advocating cowardice on the part of the Christians. He says, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (v.15). Thereby meaning that the Christian is obligated to acknowledge belief in the risen CHRIST when asked. The suffering of the Christian pales in comparison to the suffering undertaken by CHRIST on our behalf. Just knowing this should be a source of encouragement for us. While most present-day believers have the liberty of public worship without fear of persecution, we often neglect or refuse to acknowledge our Christianity when the opportunity presents itself. Consequently, we miss opportunities to witness to the unsaved in favor of going along with the crowd and “fitting in.” It is sad to think that many of us are so concerned and fearful of what other people think of us that we fail to consider what GOD thinks.
4. SOBRIETY AND DISCIPLINE (4:7)
Peter issues a sobering call to action when he announces that “the end of all things is at hand” (v.7). We may recall that this same expression was used by John the Baptist (Matthew 4:17). Our remaining time on earth may be short, and the return of the LORD can occur at any time. In light of this, Peter urges the believers to “be sober” or remain vigilant and alert. It is only when we are alert and in control of our faculties that we can remain prayerful.
5. LOVE ONE ANOTHER (v.8)
While he urges sobriety and fervent prayer, Peter maintains that “fervent charity” or love for one another is even more important. The love Christians have for one another must be maintained at all costs.
The Apostle John further expresses this idea of a “fervent” or strenuous love when he writes, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of GOD; and every one that loveth is born of GOD, and knoweth GOD” (1 John 4:7). Intense love for one another is the true “brand” of the believer. We are to love one another because GOD loves us. John goes on to make it perfectly clear that our love for fellow Christians is not optional: “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth GOD love his brother also” (1 John 4:21).
In addition to pleasing GOD, Christian love toward one another is an integral part of kingdom building. Because the work of the ministry is directed toward a suffering world, it requires that every member of the body of CHRIST accomplish it effectively as GOD intended it to be done. The work will never be done properly by a weak or unhealthy church suffering from internal pains or spiritual diseases. Members of the body of CHRIST must support and encourage one another in brotherly love.
6. RESTORATION THROUGH GOD’S GRACE (5:8-10)
Throughout the epistle, Peter addresses the Christian’s relationship to GOD and to fellow believers; here, he addresses our relationship to the church.
In addition to prayer, sobriety and vigilance are essential in our defense against satanic forces. Peter warns that our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (v.8). Satan, interestingly enough, is referred to as an “adversary.” In Greek, this word refers to an opponent in a lawsuit. This description is appropriate when we consider that Satan continually accuses the saints before GOD (Revelation 2:10). This courtroom imagery is brought into even sharper focus as we note that in this second reference to Satan, Peter calls him “the devil.” The Greek word for “devil” also means slanderer. We see that in the heavenly courtroom, the opponent is not above lying!
What a comfort it is to know that we have JESUS to plead our case before GOD, the FATHER. As John explains, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the FATHER, JESUS CHRIST the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Even with this assurance, we must still be careful. Although Satan can slander or misrepresent us before GOD, we must take care that our conversation and conduct doesn’t provide ammunition to accuse us in the first place!
Peter admonishes us to steadfastly, or solidly and resolutely resist Satan in the faith. We are reminded here that, as individuals, we don’t have the power to combat Satan or satanic forces; it is only the power of GOD that can overcome him.
In closing his letter, Peter reminds the Christians to remember that GOD’S grace is sufficient to supply all of our needs. Suffering may be a part of GOD’S plan for our lives. We can rest in the knowledge that just as HE controls this present time of suffering, HE controls the future. Our past and present suffering will pale in comparison to “the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). The four blessings Peter invokes on behalf of the believer are, “make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). They might be better understood as his prayerful request for their spiritual maturity, their steadfast endurance, their being equipped for ministry efforts, and their living in peace with GOD and others.
THINK ABOUT IT!!!!
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD
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