Section Twelve: The Writings of Peter, Salvation of Your Souls
The Apostle Peter concerned with the reality of the Messiah’s Resurrection proclaims, “for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:9, NIV 1984). It is that “salvation of your souls” phrase in the first few verses of this letter that drives home the redeeming power of Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The “psuche” (Greek word for soul) and its salvation is the primary thought of Peter…and rightfully so. When Peter speaks of the “psuche,” he is talking about what dirt and dust can become when God forms it and breathes into its nostrils. A living creature (ESV) living being (NIV; NASB) living soul (ASV; KJV) (see Genesis 2:7) is formed.
We must get a hold of that! God created living souls by His very breath. These souls however, are in peril. To illustrate this peril of the soul, think of a star in the heavens. A star that has died thousands of years ago still has light that reaches our eyes today. Though it is dead and gone we would not know it except that an astronomer might tell us the light we see is from a dead source. It looks alive, yet it is dead. So it is with the soul of the unbeliever. The soul of an unbeliever is a dead star. It might look like every other star, but at the source it is dead.
God in His mercy through Jesus Christ reaches out to the soul of fading light. He, in Christ, seeks to perform CPR on that soul who is choking to death on sin and under the sentence of death. The light in man’s soul (without God the source) is as dead as a star created thousands of years ago who’s light stills shines, but only as an after effect. We need continuous access to the source of our souls. The Resurrection of Christ gives us a way to breathe in God again which cleanses us of the toxin of sin. In turn providing growth into the salvation of our souls both in the present sense and on into the Age to Come is the preoccupation of the rest of the letter.
Overall, in the letters of 1 and 2 Peter the Apostle Peter says that the WAY of God is the way of holiness based in the TRUTH of humility. The nature of TRUTH is that it must be accepted in humility. One cannot pursue humility without pursuing holiness. Holiness is the nature of the Truth of who God is for He is holy. God is Creator set apart from His creation to be revered as sacred and morally pure. Moreover, one cannot pursue God in holiness without loving others. Love is the moral action of what is holy. Loving others reflects the love God has for believers and for the world.
The Letter of 1 Peter
In addition to the “salvation of your souls” phrase in 1 Peter 1, there are four other phrases that leap off the page and lead the reader/listener to the two overall emphases of holiness and humbleness that characterize the point of what Peter has to say:
“according to his great mercy, He has caused us to be born again” (verse 3, ESV)
“living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (verse 3, ESV)
“who by God’s power are being guarded through faith” (verse 5, ESV)
“grieved by various trials so that the tested genuineness of your faith” (verses 6-7, ESV)
Why these verses? Why do they jump out? The Apostle Peter in these verses is simply stating what God is doing in the believer and how He brings them into His nature through Jesus Christ (who is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE). Those verses in summary communicate to us that we must be born in Christ and into a realized state of being with a Living Lord. This means we are in the protective hands of God. We must be found in the protective hands of God because only obedience can be used by God to the full salvation of the believers’ soul.
Holiness in 1 Peter
1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (NIV, 1984).
God is Holy. If we want Him in our lives, we must conform to Him because is simply does not work the other way around. Peter commands believers to purify ourselves through obedience to the God because He loves us. Practical holiness (day in and day out Christian living) is not an accident, but rather a walk of obedience following the LIFE Jesus set out for us and in us. Notice in the above verses (verse 15) that the Apostle Peter says to become holy. Becoming holy is consecration.
Becoming holy is maturing into the Image of Christ.
The holiness that Peter describes for believers hangs on our identity that God has given us. It is in Jesus that we identify ourselves and in Whom we are baptized and Whose Spirit is given to us. It is that Holy Spirit which guides the believer into all TRUTH and thereby holy living.
Our identity in God (and in Christ) is cemented in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, for example, Malachi 3:16-17 says, “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 17 ‘They will be mine,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him’” (NIV 1984).
Verse 16 shares with us that those who were faithful to God encouraged each other with words. We don’t know what they said to each other, but the words certainly seemed to honor God. God kept His watchful eye on them and their names were even written down so nothing they said or did would be forgotten. Verse 17 shares with us something supremely important which is related to the Hebrew word “segullah” (seg-oo-lah). That is a unique Hebrew word which means “special possession” or “treasured possession” which means a “possession exclusively belonging to YHWH.”
This is not the first time God has called the People of God His “treasured possession.” Hundreds and hundreds of years before God said to a wayward people coming out of slavery in Egypt, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6, NIV 1984). Moses told them again in Deuteronomy 7:6, “The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (repeated in Deuteronomy 14:2 and 26:18). David in Psalm 135:3-4 reflects, “Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. 4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession” (NIV 1984).
You might say to yourself, that’s all well and good, but those words of “treasured possession” were aimed at the people of Israel in the Old Testament who were His chosen people full of His priests and they were in fact a holy nation. That doesn’t apply to us. You might also say…what on earth does that have to do with the writings of Peter and holiness?!
1 Peter 2:9-10 declares to us so very plainly, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (NIV 1984).
Hear this! If you are in Christ, if you have in faith and repentance accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and you have been baptized with Him and received the gift of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), then you are God’s “treasured possession” and you are to pursue holiness. Period.
What does it practically mean from God that we are His “treasured possession?” Verse 16 tells us that because we are God’s treasured possession, that He spares us and has compassion on us. God cares for us as we would a treasured possession. He guards our hearts and mends back the broken pieces when life shatters us. He disciplines us when needed and sets us back on the paths of righteousness. God cares for us and keeps our souls intact and trims away the sins that darken our hearts. God provides for us. God cares for us as we would a treasured possession. Preservation. Care. Protection. Personal Interest. Joy. Compassion. Love. WAY. TRUTH. LIFE.
What does it practically mean from us that we are His “treasured possession?” Since we are God’s “treasured possession” we need to act like it! We need to wake up each day and embrace being a Christian in the best way and in the best manner we know to do. We need to approach each day with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and through us. Maturing into the image of Messiah Jesus involves a process of God giving and us humbly receiving grace. His love draws us into the image of Messiah Jesus more and more each day. We awake each day to serve in humility our sacred Lord.
Then I believe we will find ourselves acting like a Holy people:
We will need to act like a chosen people.
We will need to live in our homes and work at our jobs like a royal priesthood.
We will need to vote for that which promotes holiness like a holy nation.
We will need to conduct ourselves with entertainment as Jesus would, which means watching TV and movies as though we are people who belong to God.
We will need to give in stewardship our firsts of all Jesus’ processions.
We will need to care for God’s people and a dying world like the church of a chosen people.
We will need to share our faith with others like a royal priesthood.
We will need to consecrate ourselves to God in our choice, which touches our dress and outward adornment to reveal ourselves as a separate holy people like a holy nation.
We will need to be about God’s business in studying our Bibles and praying and serving God as though we are people who belong to God.
This can all be summarized with one statement: We need to live poor in spirit before God.
Humbleness in 1 Peter
The other emphasis the Apostle Peter makes in the letter of 1 Peter (in addition to the need for holiness to grow into the salvation of our souls) is humbleness.
|1 Peter 5:6-7|
|Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.||Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you||So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.||So bow down under God’s strong hand; then when the time comes, God will lift you up. Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.||Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Peter then goes on to tell his readers to turn away from bad behavior and to be complete (holy or prefect like God) in their love just as they were loved by Jesus. The humble compassion exuded by Jesus Christ in His life and ministry is to be our pattern for our own lives. The life a believer lives is one of humbleness, which proclaims the divine nature that lives, works, and changes inside us. The humbleness that Peter describes requires two basic attitudes. First, an attitude of submission. Second, an attitude of humility.
First, an attitude of submission is needed for humbleness to reign in our lives. Submission is not a new theme for Peter, in fact it’s a relatively familiar one in the epistle, but now in Chapter 5 he says that we are to be subject to elders, but the spirit of that truth pervades the whole of the church. All believers are to be subject to those who are over them in the Lord…who are their shepherds…who are the older mature saints. The word “subject” gives us the idea of “lining up under.” It’s a military term, it means to get in line under their leadership.
Second, an attitude of humility is needed for humbleness to reign in our lives. An attitude of submission is a twin to an attitude of humility. If the attitude of submission attacks self-promoting pride, the attitude of humility attacks self-love. So, the matter of spiritual virtue is a matter of humility. The matter of maturity is a matter of humility.
The Apostle Peter calls for everyone to live in submission to God’s established authority. This is true even if they are abusing that authority. Peter brings this attitude of living with humility right into family life. Peter commands for wives to submit to husbands; even in bad relationships. Peter commands husbands to likewise love their wives; even in difficult matters that cause heartache. Husbands are to love with “understanding” because Christ loved us with such understanding even as we stood in resistance of His love towards us. To suffer like this, is to share in the life of Christ abiding in His way standing for truth. This is standing up for what is right rather than your rights. This is laying down your rights for the sake of God’s love for others and their redemption. This is hard work only done through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This is hard work only done through those that grow up into their salvation.
Peter also says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19, ESV). Yes! We resist evil in all its forms, but not so we look shiny and clean (though we will). We resist evil in all its forms to that the Glory of God fills the earth. The Christian is the main means by which God fills the earth with the knowledge of Himself and brings us and all things into holy living.
2 Peter speaks more on the topic of Spirit empowered living…
The Letter of 2 Peter
2 Peter 1:3-7 is a core passage in 2 Peter and states, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (NIV 1984).
In view of the salvation of our souls (motivated by holiness and humbleness), the Apostle Peter explains what a new life in Christ looks like. The saved soul lives a life different than an unsaved soul. Life in Christ is vastly different than life apart from Christ. To fully embrace the LIFE God is willing to bring about in us, we must share in the Divine Nature under the governing love of God.
What does that governing love of God look like in the life of a believer?
And Love in increasing measure
Here we believe Peter is commanding those who have partaken in the LIFE Christ offers to be complete in our love. We must hold to (abide in) that which God through Christ has seeded into us with eternal life. How on earth will any of this be accomplished in us? How can we have faith or knowledge or goodness or self-control or most of all…how can we love? God is love and God is faithful to who He says He is and what He promises to us.
God gives LIFE and the capacity to love. Each person is faced with a choice to live in love or to not love. Not living in love leads to wickedness. Living in love leads to righteousness. Only by pursuing God alone (who alone has LIFE) do we have the hope of eternal life. Here is what Peter is saying overall:
The WAY of God is the WAY of humility. We cannot pursue humility without pursuing holiness. Holiness is basis of the TRUTH of God’s identity. In addition, we cannot pursue holiness without loving others because we must love others as God has loved us.