1 PETER 1
It is pretty certain that the Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter. Just about the entire early church and the ‘Church Fathers’ agreed on this point. It carries the weight of his authority but may not entirely be his own words: towards the end of the letter, he gives Silas credit for helping him write it, and it is true that the style and quality of the written Greek is probably above that of an untrained fisherman! But the thoughts and commands came from Peter and the authority is underpinned by the Spirit himself. Written in about AD 60-64, a few years before Peter was martyred during Nero’s reign, it was probably penned in Rome itself, symbolically referred to as ‘Babylon’ in this letter. The recipients were “God’s elect” (or “chosen”), who were exiles in the provinces of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).
Peter wants them to know that God had especially chosen them, entirely by his grace, before the foundation of the world. All three persons of the Trinity are involved in the process of salvation, with the Holy Spirit’s key role being to draw the person away from a fascination with the world’s values and towards a delight in Jesus Christ. Without that aspect of ‘heart surgery’, no-one could get saved and no-one would get saved.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Never underestimate the need for the New Birth – it is not a bolt-on optional extra for the dedicated believer, but rather the fundamental thing that determines that you are a Christian?
Having been born from above, we are given an inheritance that cannot ever be lost, kept safe, ready to be handed over to us on the last day of this present age. Until then, the sadness, sufferings and setbacks are exercise machines in God’s great gymnasium of life, stretching the mighty muscles of our faith until they grow larger and more powerful with every waking minute. They are the precision instruments in the hands of the Great Surgeon who uses them to remove the dross from our natures and leaves us with the finest gold of Christ-like glory that he so desires to see in us. Faith living in his children is irresistible to the Lord and he stops at nothing to build it in us. Greater faith will lead to a better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35) and a glorious salvation.
“Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). ‘Set apart from the rest, to be the best’ – that is what holiness means; you cannot serve two masters, so everyone must choose. Every second of the day is a choice and when we choose God’s will, we are acting consistently with our holy calling. The first way in which we acted holy was to obey the truth of the gospel; now we need to love one another deeply from the heart – because we will live together forever!
EZEKIEL 42 and 43
Very few of us are privileged to see the full-on glory of the Lord Almighty through our earthly eyes; but Ezekiel was one such person. I suppose you could say that he had paid the price for this honour, because of what he had suffered as the Lord’s prophet.
He had seen the glory of the Lord previously, of course. In Ezekiel chapter 10, the glory of the Lord had departed the temple, along with the cherubim and their ‘wheels’; it departed over the threshold of the temple and left through the East Gate of the complex. Symbolically, therefore, God had abandoned his people to their destiny and the judgment that was due them.
But now, as Ezekiel was standing in the new temple, facing East towards the sunrise, he saw from a distance the glory of the Lord coming quickly, just like the sun rising on a clear morning and steadily increasing in radiance. There was also a sound – a vast ‘Niagara Falls’ kind of sound – that accompanied it and so Ezekiel witnessed the glory of the Lord moving past him, right into the inner courts and onto His throne in the Most Holy Place. God had come home! And from that throne he spoke to Ezekiel:
“Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever” (43:7). The Lord was not only home, but he was intent on making himself ‘at home’! His very presence brought Heaven and Earth together as one, and foretold a time when we believers will dwell in that new creation of Heaven on Earth. It is what we were born for.
God will also deal with the ‘heart’ issues that pull us away from him; he will purge us from our idolatry and our shameful sins. He asked that the design of the temple be described to the people (presumably by reading the Book of Ezekiel) and expected that the descriptions would invoke a repentance and a sorrow for sin. The plans not only describe a great new world – in metaphor – but they also remind the reader of the holiness of the Lord, of separation from anything sinful and contaminating.
Then the great altar was restored and became much larger than the one in Solomon’s temple: it was now about seven metres high! It was shaped like a Babylonian ziggurat, being made up of three slabs of decreasing size as you looked further up. This altar symbolized the restoration of an effective atonement, with the atoning blood being placed on the altar horns. We would see that this represents the Death and Resurrection of Christ: “…We have been made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… When this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… For by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14.)
Once for all time!