Understanding 1 Peter
1 Peter 2:4
1 Peter Lesson #057
July 21, 2016
“Lord, we’re thankful for this opportunity to come together, to fellowship around Your Word, to focus on Your Word, to come to understand how to understand Your Word, and to come to understand the truth of Your Word. Father, we pray that You might help us tonight to think and to think clearly, to reflect upon understanding Your Word and especially in this important section of 1 Peter.
Father, we continue to pray for those in our congregation who are looking for a job, who need a job, and also have health problems. We pray for others who are traveling and others who are fighting life-threatening diseases. We pray You will strengthen them and help them.
Father, above all we pray that You will continue to provide for this ministry, that You would continue to sustain us. We’re so thankful for opportunities that we each have to present the gospel and to explain the truth of how a person can have eternal life. We pray that this might continue. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter, chapter 2. Tonight what we’re going to talk about is how we understand 1 Peter. You may think you already understand it, but there are other issues that are going on here and when I ended last week I said that this next section, which is verses 4 through 10, is a really challenging section.
I’ve seen this coming, sort of like this proverbial freight train that you see the light at the end of the tunnel and you hope it’s not a freight train and it is. It’s really difficult. I’ve worked it through with a pastors’ study group that meets on Friday morning. We’ve worked through this.
There’s been a lot of discussion among our group of pastors as to just how we understand this particular passage. Now you may read it and think you were taught correctly. Maybe you were and maybe you weren’t. Maybe it needs to be refined, but there are a lot of issues in this particular passage.
I said last time that if I hadn’t figured them out by tonight then we would probably just have prayer and fellowship and go home. Who brought the donuts? Nobody? I guess we’ll have to study the Word.
We’re going to look at this and we always have to look at context. Just a reminder that what we studied last time was that when we look at the main section after we get out of the introduction we come to these verses. The introduction focuses on how to handle fiery trials. We know from that that 1 Peter is going to be about how to live the spiritual life in the midst of some sort of opposition and some sort of persecution as well as the regular challenges of life.
Then there’s a series of imperatives that aren’t clear in the English but each one of those involves two or three verses.
- We’re to rest our hope fully on the grace of God in 1 Peter 1:13–14.
- We’re to set apart ourselves to the service of God. “Be holy as I [God] am holy.” That’s the point there. 1 Peter 1:15–16.
- We’re to conduct our lives in fear of God, in fearful respect of God, because we know that there will be accountability someday. That’s in 1 Peter 1:17–21. That covers that section where we reflect back on our salvation. That’s important for understanding why we need to conduct the time of our stay in fear.
- Then, in 1 Peter 1:22–25, the command is to love one another. And that is with integrity. It’s based upon the fact that we have been saved, regenerated, and that this is the mark of a growing disciple.
There’s an emphasis there as we come out of that section on the importance of the Word of God. In that section you have two different words used for the Word of God. You have the word LOGOS, which often refers to the written Word of God. It can also refer to Jesus as the Living Word of God.
Then you have the word RHEMA, which is the spoken Word of God.
When we get to 1 Peter 2:2, most of us have memorized that we are to “desire the sincere milk of the Word.” But the Greek there isn’t LOGOS or RHEMA, but it’s LOGIKON, which is really talking about the logical construction and teaching of the Word of God. It has to do with that which is rational and that which is reasonable.
It’s the same root as LOGOS, but this is where we get our English word “logic”. Then we have this command, the fifth command, to crave or to desire the sincere of the milk of the Word in 1 Peter 2:1–3.
Then there’s what seems to be sort of a sidetrack in verses 4 through 10. Then there’s a conclusion that we are to conduct ourselves honorably for the glory of God in 1 Peter 2:11–12.
The basic argument, just to think contextually, is that as Peter comes out of these first five commands, he’s argued that because we’re regenerate, because we have heard the gospel of grace and received it we have been regenerated through this imperishable seed and we’re like a brand new baby. That’s whom he’s talking to.
These are Jewish-background believers, as I’ve said since we began the study. They have heard the gospel and they responded to the gospel. Now they’re saved and the question is: what’s next? Especially since they’re in the midst of this opposition or persecution that is at the heart of this section.
Then, as a result of having made those four or five commands, Peter says “therefore”. He’s reaching a conclusion from what he’s said about regeneration. He’s saying that because we are a new creature in Christ and a new baby in Christ, we’re to do something.
We’re to “lay aside all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking and then as newborn babes, we are to desire the sincere milk of the Word, that we may grow thereby if indeed we have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
I covered this last time because this sets the stage for what he’s going to say in 1 Peter 2:4–10. The point here in the Greek grammar, to summarize it, that this is the kind of structure where the participle that is translated laying aside is what’s called antecedent circumstance. Basically what that means is that you have to do that first before you can fulfill the main command in the second verse.
When we think about this logically it can’t mean to stop sinning so you can then study the Word of God. The significance of the grammar is first do this, and then you can desire the milk of the Word.
If laying aside all these sins is something that you have to do before you can study the Word, we might as well close up shop and go home because none of us are ever going to become perfect.
It has to mean something else. As I pointed out last time that verb APOTITHEMI is used to remove a set of clothes, and the sin viewed here is that which has defiled our garments experientially, so we have to remove them. It’s a picture of being cleansed.
As I pointed out in the introduction, the only thing in Scripture that tells us how to be cleansed is 1 John 1:9. There are numerous passages that talk about examining yourself, “cleanse your hands you sinners” in James 3, and numerous other passages that use this imagery, but 1 John 1:9 is the only verse that gives us the mechanics, the way you are cleansed and that’s by confessing sin.
A lot of people get the idea that if I just confess sin, I can just move on. The idea isn’t just to keep confessing it and doing it, but as we grow those sins will become less and less an issue in our lives.
Someone pointed out to me that as they grow and grow their sins become more apparent to them and they’re more aware of them. That’s true, but that’s part of growth. Now you may not be sinning in such obvious ways. You just become a little more self-deceived and we work it more at that deeper more subtle level but those are exposed.
That’s the work of God the Holy Spirit in the process of our spiritual growth.
So it’s this first “this, then this”. It’s not as simple as it sounds, and you just quit sinning. No one does. You have a number of other passages as I pointed out with this same structure and this same idea.
The primary thought here is this command to desire the milk of the Word. That’s how we grow.
Let’s look now at our regular chart dealing with Phase One justification, then Phase Two, the spiritual life, and Phase Three, glorification. We’re saved from the penalty of sin at the instant of salvation, but the whole spiritual life is being saved from the power of sin. When Jesus was teaching this through a visual training aid type of lesson by washing the disciples’ feet in John 13, when He came to wash Peter’s feet, Peter said, “No, Lord. You’re not going to do this.”
The Lord said what? “Peter, if you don’t let Me do this, you’ll have no part with Me.” The word in the Greek is MEROS and it means an inheritance. It doesn’t mean he won’t be saved, but it means if Jesus doesn’t wash his feet, which is a picture of confession of sin and cleansing, then there won’t be any inheritance because you’ll be living your life out of fellowship the whole time.
Then Peter said, “Well, wash all of me.” The Lord said, “You are already fully cleansed. I only need to wash your feet.”
The picture there comes from the Old Testament, that at the beginning of his ministry, the High Priest is bathed and washed from head to toe, but after that, it’s just his feet and his hands that are cleansed.
That’s the process of growing in the Christian life. 1 John 1:9 doesn’t mean to confess your sins so you can be saved. He’s writing to believers.
Then the third phase is being saved from the presence of sin.
The last verse, 1 Peter 2:3 says, “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” That’s the verb GEUOMAI, which means not to just put a little on your tongue, but to fully experience something. If you were a Jewish-background believer then a verse that would come to mind would be Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Look at the parallel to that. What does it mean to taste and see that the Lord is good? Tasting and seeing are not things we normally put together. Like, taste this great dish I just cooked and then see something. Those usually don’t connect.
But in the second stanza of Psalm 34 it says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” Trusting in God is parallel to tasting and seeing. It’s fully experiencing that trust in God; it’s fully experiencing God. You see that God is good. There’s your parallel.
When we move from there into the next section, we read these next ten verses and they’re loaded with references and allusions and quotes back to the Old Testament. As I’ve taken time many times to take us through the issue of how you can understand these quotes from the Old Testament and what they mean, it’s really important hermeneutically to identify that.
Sometimes it’s not easy. I pointed this out last time. Jim Myers came over last week on Wednesday. We spent about three hours together talking about not just the issues here but it’s tangential to a number of other issues. It’s also important because within our doctrinal or theological milieu there are different views of this that are significant.
I’m going to go through some of that. I was telling someone today that the trouble with doing something like this is that you spend about twenty-four hours studying these issues. Over the course of the last six or seven years I’ve probably spent closer to sixty hours and then you finally come to a resolution and you can explain it in ten minutes.
Then I don’t have anything to say about the next verse. We have to understand why I’m saying what I’m saying. Sometimes people say, “Why do you go into so much detail?”
Well, just like last week, I go through all this detail and I go through the grammar and I still have someone who can’t quite get the obvious. I get asked questions. The answers to most of the questions I get come from the details of going through the text.
In one sense I drill down so much in the detail for self-defense. If I don’t I will be asked the questions and then I’ll have to do it, so it’s just easier to do it up front.
When we look at this passage, one of the things we have to do is understand whom it is that Peter is addressing. Remember in Galatians, chapter two, Paul said that Peter is the apostle to the Jews. That’s his sphere of operation. It doesn’t mean he never went to the Gentiles because we know he did.
In Acts 10 he’s the first apostle to take the gospel to the Gentiles, to Cornelius, in Acts 10 and 11. Even though Peter went to Gentiles he primarily has a ministry to Jews.
Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, that doesn’t mean he never gave the gospel to Jews. Everywhere he went he started in the synagogue, because that’s where there were people who had the same frame of reference in terms of the Old Testament and many responded to the gospel that Jesus was the Messiah. It was from that group that he built those initial churches on all of his missionary journeys.
We have to be reminded that Peter is the apostle to the Jews and also that in the very beginning of Peter when he says that he’s writing to the “pilgrims”, that word can mean different things, but they are the pilgrims of the diaspora. The diaspora is the term that is always used in the New Testament and in literature at that time as a technical term to refer to the Jews who are scattered throughout the world.
That becomes a big hermeneutical issue. If he’s writing to Jews, the question we have to ask is “what difference does that make?” I had two people grin. Come on; let’s chuckle a little. “What difference does that make?”
That’s really the issue in hermeneutics. This isn’t something that’s just sitting there. Peter has a lot of quotes from the Old Testament, so obviously the fact that he’s writing to Jews is important. We’ll come back to that in just a minute.
There are different views. It affects how you interpret the passages in the epistle. Sometimes it doesn’t make a huge difference. Sometimes it makes more of a difference, but this is where a lot of confusion exists today, is this issue of whom Peter is writing to. Jews or Gentile Christians and what difference does that make?
I tried to break this down a little bit as we look at this section of 1 Peter just to remind ourselves what these issues are. There are basically two views that we’ve seen historically. The first view is that Peter is writing to Gentile Christians who are scattered and being persecuted. See they’re saying that just as the Jews are scattered, now the Gentiles are scattered and being persecuted.
There’s this assignment of Jewish terminology to Gentiles. Often in reading the commentaries they try to identify these persecutions as Roman persecution. It can’t be the Neronian persecutions because this was written a little bit before that. They get all sidetracked into that.
There are going to be two views. Peter is writing to the Gentiles or Peter is writing to the Jews.
By the way, the oldest view in the second and third century was that nearly all of the apostolic fathers in the early church understood that Peter was writing to Jews.
What happens by the late 200s? What starts seeping in the mid to late 200s? Replacement theology.
Once that becomes institutionalized by the time of Augustine no one is thinking of it in terms of Jews anymore. Early Christian anti-Semitism basically marginalizes the Jewishness of the New Testament. That has a huge impact on the inability of the early medieval church to properly interpret a lot of things.
They basically ignore the Jewish background. If they paid attention to it, that would mean they had a more literal interpretation and a historical, grammatical interpretation. They get away from that completely and just jump into allegory.
In the first way this is applied when they take that this is written to Gentile Christians is that the terms that are used for Israel in the Old Testament, which we’ll see down in verses 9 and 10, that you are a “chosen generation”, a “royal priesthood”, a “holy nation”, and “His own special people” are four terms used for Israel in the Old Testament.
Here Peter is writing to these recipients and he says, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and His own special people.” What does that mean? In this first view the terms that are used for Israel in the Old Testament are now used in 1 Peter 2:9–10 for the New Testament church.
This shows, in their view, that Israel has been totally and permanently replaced in God’s plan by the church. This is the foundation of Replacement theology.
One of the reasons I’m bringing this out is that Replacement theology is having a little bit of resurgence within evangelicalism. Now we always have known that it’s out there with Roman Catholic theology. They say, “Oh, we don’t believe in that anymore.” But they still hold to it. They may not be engaged in pogroms against the Jews, but they still hold to the fact that there’s no literal, future, Jewish-based kingdom that will come.
So I want to cover a little bit on Replacement theology. I know I covered this on Sunday morning but this happens every now and then where I’m in a study on Tuesday night and it’s almost identical to what I’m doing on Sunday morning. But aside from y’all sitting here, the people who listen online will be listening to Matthew without listening to Peter at the same time.
They’ll be listening to Peter and they won’t be listening to Matthew because they’re just listening to one series and then the other series. Only if you’re sitting here in West Houston Bible Church are you hearing these lessons taught at almost the same time.
So what is the definition of Replacement theology? Walt Kaiser has been past president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He’s president of Gordon-Conwell Seminary. He’s a well-known highly, respected Old Testament scholar. He says, “Replacement theology … declared that the Church, Abraham’s spiritual seed, had replaced national Israel in that it had transcended and fulfilled the terms of the covenant given to Israel, which covenant Israel had lost because of disobedience.”
This is important. The promises to Abraham, he’s basically saying, were transferred from Israel to the church.
When I was in Israel for the Yad Vashem seminar a couple of months ago, there was a rabbi who said that all Christianity is Replacement theology. Jesus is going to replace the Torah. That’s not Replacement theology. Replacement theology isn’t saying that the church is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. It’s saying that the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and their descendants are not going to be fulfilled literally to Israel. They are given now spiritually to the Church.
Ronald Diprose in his book, Israel and the Church, says that Replacement theology means that “the Church completely and permanently replaced ethnic Israel in the working out of God’s plan and as recipient of Old Testament promises to Israel.”
If ethnic Israel is replaced, then ethnic Israel has no significance any more. The Abrahamic Covenant, when it says, “I will bless those who bless you”, is null and void now. It doesn’t matter anymore because God doesn’t have a future plan for Israel.
Knox Seminary once published an open letter back in the early 2000s because evangelicals were making a big deal about supporting Israel. George Bush was president and he supported Israel against Iraq and Iran and all of this. Their letter said, “No, you don’t. You don’t need to do this.”
James Kennedy, whom some of you know who he is, is pastor of a large church in Florida. He helped start Knox Seminary as a part of that church there. They were completely into Replacement theology.
Another writer on the topic, Kendall Soulen, said “According to this teaching (supersessionism, which is another term for Replacement theology), God chose the Jewish people after the fall of Adam in order to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior. After Christ came, however, the special role of the Jewish people came to an end and its place was taken by the church, the new Israel.”
In their view, the church is the new Israel, so all of the promises given to Israel in the Old Testament are now spiritualized and given to the church.
This idea is really the seedbed for Christian anti-Semitism, which also came to the foreground in the middle part of the second century between AD 150 and 200 and it’s as result of this kind of shift Israel is no longer important in the plan of God.
There’s another book out that is a detailed book based on Michael Vlach’s doctoral dissertation. He says there are two basic things related to Replacement theology. That the nation Israel has somehow completed or forfeited its status as the people of God and will never again possess a unique role or function apart from the church.
As dispensationalists, within dispensational theology, we understand that God has temporarily set aside Israel but He hasn’t blocked the Abrahamic Covenant promises of blessing and cursing. Again, God will restore the focus to Israel as in the end of Daniel’s 70th week. This will come about in the future and Christ will return and establish His Kingdom.
Michael Vlach says that his second point is that the church is now the true Israel that has permanently replaced or superseded national Israel as the people of God. Obviously they don’t believe in literal interpretation because in their view the church means Israel and Israel means the church. You didn’t know that? How could you figure that out if you were in the Old Testament and God said to Abraham, “I’m going to give you this piece of land and here are the boundaries.”
How could Abraham say, “That means Heaven, doesn’t it?”
He didn’t have a scratch-and-sniff card to scratch it off and see what is really said. Right?
This started in the early church. Irenaeus is one of the early church fathers who is really great in many, many areas. In his work, Against Heresies, he wrote, “For inasmuch as the former [the Jews] have rejected the Son of God, and cast Him out of the vineyard …” Where does that imagery, “cast Him out of the vineyard” come from? Matthew 21. We just studied that in the last couple of weeks, or this last week.
“… cast Him out of the vineyard when they slew Him, God has justly rejected them, and given to the Gentiles outside the vineyard the fruits of the cultivation.” That’s why I went through this in detail this last Sunday morning.
Cyprian is another early church father. He preceded Augustine as the bishop in North Africa. He was the bishop in Carthage. He said, “I have endeavored to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favor, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future, while the Christians had succeeded to their place …” His dates are around AD 250 to 300.
He also said that, “We Christians, when we pray, say Our Father, because He has begun to be ours, and has ceased to be the Father of the Jews who have forsaken him.”
Now Vlach gives five points. I just want to summarize these but I want you to look at these verses. He gives five points that summarize Replacement theology.
- He says that all of national Israel has been permanently rejected as the people of God. What’s his verse for that? Matthew 21:43, which we studied just last week. That’s why I got into Replacement theology there. A lot of similarities between what we’re studying in 1 Peter 2:4–10 and the imagery that’s in the parable we just studied this last Sunday.
- He says that application to Old Testament language to the church shows [this is what Replacement theologians say] that Old Testament language that’s applied to the church shows that the church is now identified as the New Israel. The term “new Israel” never occurs in Scripture.
He gives a list of verses: Galatians 6:16 where Paul uses the phrase, “then greet the Israel of God among you.” What he’s doing is he’s talking to a congregation and among that congregation there’s a subset of Jews, the remnant, who had trusted in Jesus as Messiah. So when he talks about the Israel of God, he’s talking about the Jews in the congregation. He’s not talking about the new Israel. Notice, he has 1 Peter 2:9–10 as a support for that point.
- Replacement theologians also say that the unity of Jews and Gentiles now rules out a future role or function for national Israel. He cites Ephesians 2:11–22. We’ll look at that as we go through our study tonight. Then Romans 11:17–24.
- He says the church’s relationship to the New Covenant indicates that the church alone inherits the Old Testament covenants originally promised to national Israel. That’s Replacement theology. You can see how this forms the presuppositional grid on which anti-Semitism can develop.
- He says New Testament silence on the restoration of Israel is proof that Israel will not be restored as a nation. I guess if you’re going to interpret Revelation 12 and 13 symbolically or allegorically then it doesn’t talk about the restoration of Israel.
See, this also gets to a point in Covenant theology especially, and this is influencing non-covenant schools. It’s influencing Dallas Seminary even. In the last issue of their theological journal there’s an article which they call a Christ-centered interpretation. You interpret the Old Testament on the basis of New Testament revelation. The problem with that is that no one in the Old Testament really knew what God was saying because the key doesn’t come until Jesus comes. So how can you understand anything in the Old Testament if you don’t have the New Testament key? That’s just absurd.
That’s a summary of Replacement theology. Another thing that we see is that there are certain phrases that are used of the Jews in the Old Testament that are also applied to the church. How do we understand that? Replacement theology said to see that when these terms are used for both the church and Israel it means that there’s identity.
Is there identity or is there an analogical, an analogy, an analogical application? For example, the Jews are called God’s own possession. They’re called a special treasure in Exodus 19:5 In Titus 2:14 the church is His own special people. This is a word PERIOUSIOS in the Greek. It’s the word for special and that’s what’s used in both of those places.
Just because the Jews are special and the church is special doesn’t mean they’re identical. That’s the mistake that’s made there. Just because both are called “my people” doesn’t mean they’re the same people.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves …” Everyone misuses this. If you go all the way through 1 Chronicles, every time God says “My people” it always refers to Israel. It never refers to anyone else.
Only Jeremiah 18 when God says, “If a nation that has rebelled against me turns back to me then I will bless them.” That’s the principle. That’s the verse that should be quoted, not 2 Chronicles 7:14, because that’s for Israel and it’s God’s answer to Solomon’s prayer and God is not saying that you can apply this to the United States or to Brazil or to Russia or anyone else because they’re not “My people”. The only people you have at the time are the Jews because they’re a special covenantal people and that’s the context.
But in Acts 15:14 in the context of the Jerusalem Council, James says of Peter, “Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people …” That’s the word LAOS, which is a general word for people. It’s not ETHNOS or nation.
We’re going to have to get into a whole study of the distinction of those words but at that point we see that they’re called a people.
In 2 Corinthians 6:16 there’s a quote from the Old Testament, “I will dwell in them and walk among them and I will be their God and they shall be My people.” That’s applied to the church. So they are people but they’re not the same people. It’s not a replacement principle.
Also you have the word “circumcision” in Jeremiah 9:25 where God says, “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised …” The Jews were referred to as the circumcised. Both Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel talk about the Philistines as being the uncircumcised ones.
This idea is that Jews, because of the Abrahamic Covenant, are circumcised. That’s the title for them. Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6 talk about spiritual circumcision, this circumcision of the heart.
That’s what is used by Paul in Philippians 3:3, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” That’s a spiritual circumcision. It’s different. It’s applied in a different way to the church.
When we look at these passages we see that in Replacement theology if these terms are used for Israel and then for the church then that means that the church is identified as the new Israel. We have to break this down because this is the battleground passage in 1 Peter 2:4–10.
The significance of this is indicated by one commentary writer, Scot McKnight, who says “There is no passage in the New Testament that more explicitly associates the Old Testament terms for Israel with the New Testament church than this one.” If this is the most explicit passage that’s why we have to take time with this, because this is the heart of this battle with Replacement theology. We have to understand this.
When we look at especially 1 Peter 2:9–10, which says, “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and His own special people”, we have to understand that all of those terms come out of the Old Testament.
They come from two basic passages. They come from Isaiah 43:20. Right there at the end it says “to give drink to my people [Hebrew word ’am], and My chosen [bachar].” So that’s where you get the idea of a chosen generation. That comes from Isaiah 43:20.
In Exodus 19:5–6 God says, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” So Israel as a whole was to be a kingdom of priests with a sub-group, the Levites, who were a special group, the priest tribe for the nation.
Just as the Levites were the priest tribe for the nation, so the nation of Israel is supposed to be the priest-nation (the kingdom of priests) for all the nations, all the goyim.
This leads us to ask the question. What do we do with this? How do we understand this?
I’m going to give you a couple of quotes here because I want you to catch the drift of this. Some of these people who are saying this don’t mean anything to some of you. There are people listening and a couple of people here that a couple of these names may mean something to, but there’s a reason I’m quoting them is that they’re significant people today.
The first one comes from Wayne Grudem. I think he may be president of Phoenix Theological Seminary now. He wrote a systematic theology that came out about ten years or so ago that everyone touts as the best evangelical systematic theology today.
It’s really terrible. I’ve caught him in a number of errors. In one place he’s dealing with the sons of god, the bene ha elohim and he comes up with this, saying, “That whole view that these are angels is contradicted by this passage in Deuteronomy.” The trouble is the passage in Deuteronomy is referring to Israel as the sons of Yahweh. He didn’t even look at the Hebrew text to see that there are different names for God there. It’s just loaded with those kinds of errors.
He’s also “vineyard”. That means he’s a third-wave charismatic. But he says regarding this, “So in verses 4 to 10 Peter says that God has bestowed on the church almost all the blessings promised to Israel in the Old Testament. The dwelling place of God is no longer the Jerusalem Temple, for Christians are the new temple of God. The priesthood, able to offer acceptable sacrifices to God, is no longer descended from Aaron, for Christians are now the true royal priesthood with access before God’s throne.”
“God’s chosen people are no longer said to be those physically descended from Abraham, for Christians are now the true ‘chosen race.’ ” It just goes on so let’s not get bogged down by this. “The nation blessed by God is no longer the nation of Israel … The people of Israel are no longer said to be the people of God …” He just goes on.
“Peter takes his quotations from passages which repeatedly warn that God will reject His people who persist in rebellion against Him, who reject the precious ‘cornerstone’ which He has established. What more could be needed in order to say with assurance that the church has now become the true Israel of God?”
Now this is a major evangelical theologian, president of a seminary, author of the most popular systematic theology today, and this is having an impact. When you get people who buy things like Logos Bible software they get a lot of different systematic theology, this will be one of them, and this is one that is promoted because it is the most popular.
In contrast, one of the most well-respected scholars who actually was a chaplain decorated in World War II for the British, C.E.B. Cranfield, whose volume on Romans says, “It is only where the Church persists in refusing to learn this message, where it secretly—perhaps quite unconsciously!—believes that its own existence is based on human achievement, and so fails to understand God’s mercy to itself, that it is unable to believe in God’s mercy for still unbelieving Israel, and so entertains the ugly and unscriptural notion that God has cast off His people Israel and simply replaced it by the Christian Church.”
He just refutes this in his two-volume work on Romans and says this idea that the church replaces Israel is just arrogant and it is wrong.
He says, “These three chapters [Romans 9–11] emphatically forbid us to speak of the Church as having once and for all taken the place of the Jewish people.”
What I’ve done so far is we’ve looked at this idea that the first interpretative grid is that Peter is writing to Gentile Christians. One way that’s applied is to say that he’s writing to Gentile Christians and they’ve completely replaced Israel and there’s no future for Israel in God’s plan whatsoever.
The second way in which that’s applied is one in which you’re more familiar with. The terms for Israel are generally applied to Church Age believers, but without identifying them as the replacement for Israel.
This is the view that probably most professors at Dallas Seminary when I was there adopted. Men like Tom Constable said, “all the figures of the church that Peter chose here originally referred to Israel. However with Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ, God created a new body of people through whom He now seeks to accomplish the same purposes He sought to achieve through Israel but by different means. This verse that at first might seem to equate the church and Israel on careful examination shows as many differences between these groups as similarities.”
What he’s saying is Peter has written to Gentile Christians but they’re not replacing Israel. You can’t go there.
Roger Raymer who wrote in the commentary on 1 Peter in the Bible Knowledge Commentary says the same thing. He says just at the end here, “As Israel was ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,’ so too believers today are chosen, are priests, are holy, and belong to God. Similarity does not mean identity.”
So they reject this Replacement theology idea but they still believe it’s written to Gentiles.
Then we have another view that comes along and that is this view that the second way of applying this is that the terms for Israel indicate that this is directed to Jewish-background believers and restricted to Jewish-background believers. It says it doesn’t apply to Gentile Christians. Peter is talking only to Jewish-background believers as the believing remnant and reminding them of what they have as Jewish-background believers.
In terms of our environment, this is most clearly stated by Arnold Fruchtenbaum in his commentary. Arnold came out with this commentary several years ago. It’s called The Jewish Epistles. I think he did a really good thing because he caught everyone’s attention and said that this is written to Jewish Christians. I think that’s very clear from the language.
He’s not the first one. In fact, several people have noted and listed that in the first couple of centuries of the early church the common view was that 1 Peter was written to Jewish-background believers. But once Replacement theology came in and once you ignored the Jewishness of Jesus and the Jewishness of the early church, then what happens is you start allegorizing and the Jewishness of some of this is no longer relevant.
As long as Replacement theology held a chokehold on the church and that goes through the Protestant Reformation with the first generation of Protestant reformers—Lutheran, Calvin, Zwingli—they couldn’t break away from it. They couldn’t figure it out. They were doing good just to get the gospel, to get people back to sola scriptura and sola fide, by grace alone, by Scripture alone, by faith alone.
It’s not until you get into the 1600s, two generations into the Reformation, that people start to get away from Replacement theology because they’re going back to a literal, consistent interpretation of Scripture.
So Arnold says, regarding 1 Peter 2:4–10, “This is a favorite passage for those who teach Replacement Theology. They teach that what the Old Testament stated to be true of Israel, Peter now applies and states to be true of the Church. Thus, they conclude that the Church has replaced Israel. However, there is no hint in the epistle that Peter is addressing the Church as a whole. On the contrary, in the epistle’s introduction, he stated that he was addressing Jewish believers who specifically comprised what was the then Remnant of Israel—the Israel of God.”
He goes on to say, “It’s important to reconcile that the contrast Peter makes here is not between the Church and Israel, or between believers and non-believers, or between unbelieving Jews and believing Gentiles. Rather, the contrast here is between the Remnant and the non-Remnant of Israel.”
I think that’s important. I’m not buying everything that Arnold says. I think he overstates his case and went too far and that’s been part of the discussion with a lot of us. I think he went too far.
He continues, “Rather, the contrast here is between the Remnant and the Non-Remnant of Israel.”
I think that’s true but the implication of that is where I think he went too far. “Peter’s point is that while Israel the whole failed to fulfill its calling, the Remnant of Israel [Church Age Jewish believers] has not failed to fulfill its calling.”
Let me give you about four points of summary here as to what’s going on.
- Numerous works which are justifiably critiquing and refuting Replacement theology run the danger of imposing a sound systematic theology on the text. What do I mean by that? I mean you read all these Replacement theologians. You know they’re wrong. You’ve got a systematic theology that says Israel and the church are distinct. You derive that from Scripture and then you just read that into the text.
You’re so concerned with countering the false doctrine that you really aren’t developing your theology biblically. Biblical theology doesn’t mean what you think it means. Most people haven’t been to seminary so they think that biblical theology is the opposite of a theology that isn’t based on the Bible.
That’s not what it means. Biblical theology means that you’ve gone through the exegetical process and you decide in 1 Peter what you learn about God there. What do you learn about sin in 1 Peter? What do you learn about salvation in 1 Peter? What does Peter tell you about those categories of systematic theology? That’s doing biblical theology. It’s exegetically based.
It’s the step that should come between exegesis and systematic theology. We’re all guilty of coming along and giving a lot of points on some doctrine and you just throw verses in there. In a lot of ways that’s proof-texting.
I realize and you’ve learned that as we go through Matthew on Sunday mornings and other books that some of these passages that we thought meant one thing, because they’re just taken out of context didn’t mean that. Like “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” How many people use that for prayer?
You look at the context. You develop it exegetically and you realize that doesn’t have anything to do with prayer. It has to do with the exercise of church discipline. And the two or three who are gathered together are the witnesses against the person who is out of line to confirm the indictment against him in hopes that he’ll change.
It doesn’t have anything to do with prayer but you hear a lot of people say, “If we want our prayer to be effective, let’s get two or three of us together and God will listen more.” That’s just based on bad exegesis and bad theology.
We have to make sure that when we read a set of verses like this that we’re not reading something from some other verse into this. That’s what I’m getting at.
- A second danger is to view passages only in terms of how they have been misinterpreted and in turn, to “over steer” in order to correct the problem, what happens? I had a friend whose daughter was killed doing this. She ran off the side of the road, her tire went off the edge of the highway, and she overcorrected to get back on the highway, and she flipped the car.
That what happens sometimes when you’re so concerned dealing with the erroneous interpretation of a passage; you overcorrect and flip your theology. I think that’s what Arnold did. A lot of what he says was a necessary correction. It wasn’t just Arnold. Peter is written to Jews.
You have people like Kenneth Wuest and you have a number of others who start off telling you it was written to Jews but they never let that affect their interpretation of anything in the epistle. What we’re struggling with is how that affects your interpretation of the epistle.
- On the one hand we must accept that the large number of early church fathers accepted that it was written to a Jewish audience, as well as many others in church history. Since the Reformation there have been numerous others who recognize it but the dominant view has been Gentiles.
I think the reason most people think it’s been written to Gentiles is because that’s the hangover from all those centuries of Replacement theology where the Jewishness of these epistles, like James also who was writing to the twelve tribes who were scattered, was ignored. Hebrews was written to the priests. These are Jewish-background believers. These epistles were written to help them understand the significance of what happens and where they are in the body of Christ now.
- But in recognizing the Jewishness of the recipients we must not overcorrect in a way that creates a conflict with passages which teach an equality in the body of Christ. What happens with Arnold’s view? You know I love Arnold. I run into him in Israel just about every time I go to Israel. He’s very good in many, many areas. We’re not all good in every area or otherwise we wouldn’t all be needed. Everyone blows it in different areas.
You’ve got to be careful when you come down and teach the priesthood of the believer. You can teach the priesthood of the believer without ever going to 1 Peter 2, but if you look it up in any theology, that’s the only verse they quote. Revelation 1:6 talks about the fact we are a kingdom and priests to God.
The universal priesthood of the believer is not based on this but this is the proof text that is always used and no one goes to the Revelation passages.
Galatians 3:27–28 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.”
Obviously, if I say all the men over here and all the women over here, no one in this group is going to be gender-confused and have a problem. We’re all going to know who we are. We’re still male and female. How about that?
If we lived in a society where there were slaves, some of you might be slaves and we could say, “Slaves here. Freemen over there.” Everybody could identify.
What Paul is saying is in Christ there aren’t spiritual distinctions between men and women, bond and slave. Why? Because in the Old Testament only free men and only men could get into the interior part of the Temple. Women had to stay in the courtyard of the women. Gentiles had to stay further out. There were those distinctions.
Paul isn’t saying these distinctions are eradicated in everyday life. They’re just eradicated in terms of our access to God. In the body of Christ there’s no distinction between Jew and Gentile like there was in the Old Testament.
Ephesians 2:16–20, Paul says on the Cross that “He [Jesus] might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. Now, therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners [Gentiles and Jews], but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Pay attention to that terminology. He’s uses the imagery of a building. “Having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
We’re going to see that idea of cornerstone right here in 1 Peter 2:6. He’s the Chief Cornerstone, Choice, Precious, and He who believes in Him will by no means be put to shame. Then it’s going go on to talk about those who stumble over that.
We look at 1 Peter 2:9–10, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” How is Peter using this? That is going to be important. He’s just using it analogically, as an analogy to the church, but he’s talking about both.
Now let me have this diagram up here. That circle represents the body of Christ and those are all Gentiles but there’s a subset, the Jews—Jewish believers who believe in Christ; also called the remnant by Paul, as we will see.
- Everyone in this circle is a Church Age believer. They’re equal members of the body of Christ whether they’re Jew or Gentile. There’s no difference in them spiritually. They all have the same package of blessings at salvation.
- The Jews are a subset of the body of Christ called the remnant, which now fulfills the plan of God. They fulfill what was ultimately hoped would be accomplished by the Jews in the Old Testament.
- What applies to the remnant also applies to the entire body of Christ. So if Peter is addressing the Jewish remnant here, which is what Arnold says, then it not only applies to the Jewish remnant, it would also apply to everyone else.
Peter isn’t writing to everyone else. He is just writing to the Jewish remnant, so he is reminding them of what is significant for them. This comes out of Romans 11:5, “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant [of Jews] …” The question is whether God has done away with Israel. The answer is “No.” There is “at this present time a remnant according to the election of grace,” and he’s one of them.
Now we are “coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also [these Jewish-background believers], as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.”
What does Paul tell us about that spiritual house? It’s built on a foundation of the apostles and prophets and the cornerstone is Jesus. Here, Peter fits that together saying they’re being built up in a spiritual house composed of Jews and Gentiles.
“A holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Next time we’re going to come back and start getting into the details here. What I’m saying here is that in that first view that it’s written to Gentiles, the second application of that said that the church isn’t replacing Israel. The problem with that view is that it says it’s written to Gentile Christians. It ignores the introduction as to whom it’s addressed. There’s a significance to the fact that this is addressed to Jewish-background believers.
In the second view that it’s addressed to Jews I think that some people have overstated the significance of that to restrict any application of 1 Peter to only Jewish-background believers. I think it’s addressed to Jewish-background believers because that’s whom Peter is talking to, but it has application to every believer, as well, because we’re all one in the body of Christ.
We’ll come back and look at that next time.
“Father, thank You for this time. We’re reminded You have a plan and purpose for Israel. You have a plan and a purpose for the church. There are similarities; many of the things that You used and can be related to Israel can be used in relation to the church. That doesn’t make them identical.
You know, a dog has four legs and a face, a nose, two eyes, and two ears. So does a horse. But that doesn’t make them identical. They’re different. The similarities are important but the differences are what distinguish them. We must understand that what Peter is saying to his audience is foundational for us to understand who we are so that we can face and handle the challenges in life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”