Sabbath School Lesson Commentary;Lesson 3 April 8-14, 2017: A Royal Priesthood

 

This is my commentary on the current Sabbath School Lesson.  I will differentiate my comments and citations with colorful highlights below.

Memory Text: “9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Pet. 2:9, KJV ).

We ought to live as though we have been called out of the darkness of Babylonian worship and into the marvelous light of the three angel’s message. For years now, the Christian Church has been descending in the mire of paganism and outright darkness, but God promises to, and does have a people who will “proclaim His praises,” as evidence that they have been the “called” and the “chosen,” from darkness to ever-increasing light, which shines more and more to the perfect day.

Immersed as he is in Jewish culture, religion, and history, Peter refers to the Christians he is writing to as a “holy nation, God’s own people.” By so doing, he is taking covenant language that the Old Testament uses to refer to ancient Israel, applying it here to the New Testament church.

And no wonder: Gentile believers in Jesus have been grafted into God’s covenant people. They are now partakers of the covenant promises, as well. “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you” (Rom. 11:1718 , NIV).

In the passages for this week, Peter points his readers to the sacred responsibility and high calling that they have as God’s covenant people, those who (using Paul’s language) have been grafted in to the olive tree. And among those responsibilities is the same as what ancient Israel had-proclaiming the great truth of the salvation offered in the Lord.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 15.

SundayApril 9

Living as a Christian

First Peter 2:1  begins with “therefore,” meaning that what follows results from what came before. [In the KJV it says, “wherefore,” which means “for this cause or reason, purpose or goal, etc…”] .

Read 1 Peter 2:1-3 . What is Peter telling us about how we should live?

“Wherefore alaying aside all bmalice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all cevil speakingsdAs newborn babes, desire the esincere fmilk gof the word, that hye may grow thereby: If so be ye have itasted that the Lord is kgracious.” 1 Peter 2: 1-3.

“3  And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. 4  These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.5  And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Rev. 14: 3-5

 

Peter uses two separate images to show that Christians have a double duty. One is negative, in that some things are discarded; the other is a positive, in that we should seek to do something.

In his first image, Peter urges Christians to rid themselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking (1 Pet. 2:1, NKJV ). In doing this, Christians will conduct themselves differently than do many of those around them. Because they have discarded malice, they will not desire to harm others but, instead, will seek their good. Because Christians have discarded insincerity, they will not act to deceive others but will be straightforward and honest. Christians will not envy those who have more than they do. They will be content with their life and flourish where Providence has placed them. Nor will they make statements that deliberately damage another’s reputation.

The second image that Peter uses-that of a baby hungry for milk (1 Pet. 2:2 )-provides the positive side of his instruction. Christian life is not merely a matter of giving up bad things. Such a life would be empty. No, it is a matter of seeking spiritual nourishment but with the same intensity that a hungry baby cries out for milk. He points readers to the source of that spiritual nourishment (see also Heb. 4:12Matt. 22:292 Tim. 3:15-17 ), the Word of God, the Bible. It is in the Word of God that we can grow spiritually and morally, because in it we have the fullest revelation possible, at least to us, of Jesus Christ. And in Jesus we have the greatest representation of the character and nature of the Holy God we are to love and serve.

How are these two ideas related to each other: that is, why would seeking spiritual nourishment from the Word help us lay aside the bad actions and attitudes that Peter is warning us about?

MondayApril 10

The Living Stone

Read 1 Peter 2:4-8  (see also Isa. 28:16 Ps. 118:22 Isa. 8:14 15 ). What crucial truth is Peter referring to here? What is he saying to us about how we should act in response to Jesus?

“4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, ldisallowed indeed of men, but lmchosen of God, and lprecious, Ye also, as lively stones, ||mmare built up na spiritual house, oan holy priesthood, pto offer up spiritual sacrifices, qacceptable to God rby Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in sthe scripture, tBehold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: uand vhe that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe ||he is precious: but unto wthem which be disobedient, xthe stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And ya stone of zstumbling, and a rock of zoffence, even to them which stumble at the wordwbeing disobedient: awhereunto also they bwere appointed.” 1 Peter 2: 4-8

After telling his readers to seek spiritual nourishment, Peter immediately directs their attention to Jesus Christ, the Living Stone, most likely a reference to the Jerusalem temple. In 1 Peter 2:4-8 , he cites three Old Testament passages that highlight the significance of cornerstones, which represent the role of Jesus in His church. Peter is not alone in linking these verses to Jesus. Jesus Himself uses Psalm 118:22  at the conclusion of one of His parables (Matt. 21:42 ). Peter does likewise in Acts 4:11 , in his speech to the Jewish leadership. And Paul uses Isaiah 28:16  in Romans 9:33 .

15 And that sfrom a child tthou hast known uthe holy vscriptures, wwhich are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 xAll scripture is given by inspiration of God, and yis profitable for ydoctrine, for zreproof, for acorrection, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That bthe man of God may be perfect||throughly furnished cunto all dgood works.” 2 Tim. 3: 15-17

[In obedience to 2 Tim 3: 15-17, we must recognize in the following paragraph, that it is not Peter’s words that we are listening to, but the very words of God.]

Peter’s point is that even though Jesus was rejected and crucified, He was chosen by God to become the cornerstone of God’s spiritual house. Christians, then, are living stones that are built into this spiritual house. By using the terminology of the cornerstone and building blocks, Peter is presenting an image of the church. The church is founded upon Jesus but is made up of those who follow Him.

Notice that becoming a Christian means that you become part of a Christian community, or local church. Just as a brick is to be built into a larger structure, so also Christians are not called to be followers of Jesus in isolation from others. A Christian who does not worship and work with other Christians to further the kingdom of God is a contradiction in terms. Christians are baptized into Christ, and by being baptized into Christ, they are baptized into His church.

“19  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;20  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Eph. 2: 19-22

[When we say “His Church” here, it must be understood to be the fellowship of truth-seeking believers, and not just an organization of people who bears a denominational name.  I stress this point, because we are headed into a season wherein those who are at the head of the organized work, will maintain that they are the true leaders of God’s Church, and we should be obedient unto their dictations, when in truth and in fact, they are dressed up Jesuits—wolves in sheep’s clothing!]

Peter also talks about the function of the church. It is to form a “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5 ) that offers “spiritual sacrifices.”

 

In the Hebrew Bible, the priests mediate between God and His people. The words of Peter and others in the New Testament often use the language of temple and priesthood to present the church as the living temple of God and His people as its priests. He is pointing to the Old Testament system of worship in order to reveal truths about how Christians should live and act today.

Read 1 Peter 2:5  again. What does it mean to “offer up spiritual sacrifices”? How do Christians, as part of a community at worship, do that?

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Heb 13:15 

 

TuesdayApril 11

God’s Covenant People

Peter is writing very much from an Old Testament perspective. And central to this perspective is the idea of covenant, a theme so central to Jewish and Christian theology.

What is the covenant?

“Covenant” (Hebrew, berit) is a word that describes a treaty or formal agreement between two parties. It could be made between two individuals (for example, Laban and Jacob in Genesis 31:44 ) or between two kings (for example, Solomon and Hiram in 1 Kings 5:12 , where berit is translated as “league” in the KJV, and “treaty” in the NRSV). It could also be made between a king and his people, such as David and the elders of Israel (2 Sam. 5:3 ).

Prominent among these themes is the special covenant relationship that exists between God and His chosen people, the descendants of Abraham.

Of special value to God’s church on earth today–the keepers of His vineyard–are the messages of counsel and admonition given through the prophets who have made plain His eternal purpose in behalf of mankind. In the teachings of the prophets, His love for the lost race and His plan for their salvation are clearly revealed. The story of Israel’s call, of their successes and failures, of their restoration to divine favor, of their rejection of the Master of the vineyard, and of the carrying out of the plan of the ages by a goodly remnant to whom are to be fulfilled all the covenant promises–this has been the theme of God’s messengers to His church throughout the centuries that have passed. And today God’s message to His church–to those who are occupying His vineyard as faithful husbandmen–is none other than that spoken through the prophet of old: {PK 22.1}   

That which God purposed to do for the world through Israel, the chosen nation, He will finally accomplish through His church on earth today… Never has the Lord been without true representatives on this earth who have made His interests their own. These witnesses for God are numbered among the spiritual Israel, and to them will be fulfilled all the covenant promises made by Jehovah to His ancient people.  {PK 713.1}

 

Read Genesis 17:1-4 Exodus 2:24 Exodus 24:3-8 . What do these texts tell us about the covenant God made with Israel?

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, recounts how God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:9-2117:1-26 ). God “remembered” this covenant when He rescued His people from oppression in Egypt (Exod. 2:24 ). God renewed it at the time of Moses, when He gave the Ten Commandments and other laws to the children of Israel (Exod. 19:1-24:8 ; especially Exod. 24:3-8 ).

But the covenant promises were not unconditional. “The Lord covenanted that if they were faithful in the observance of His requirements, He would bless them in all their increase and in all the work of their hands.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 574.

Indeed, the prophets repeatedly warned Israel of the dangers of disobedience to God’s law, often using language reminiscent of the covenant. It has been argued that with the possible exception of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, many prophecies in the Bible are conditional. That’s how central the idea of obedience is in regard to the covenant promises. The covenantal prophecies of blessing were conditional on obedience to God’s law, and prophecies of doom applied only to the disobedient.

“It should be remembered that the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional. [See Jeremiah 18:7-10; Jonah 3:4-10.]. . .  {LDE 38.3}

“We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel, but for Christ’s sake His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action.–Ev 695, 696 (1901).  {LDE 39.1}

“Remembering the conditional promise to the young ruler, “Thou shalt have treasure in heaven,” he now asked what he and his companions were to receive as a reward for their sacrifices.  {COL 395.1}

The Gospel is Conditional on obedience and faith, and not just the Old Testament Promises:

“16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3: 16

 

“26  I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. 27  And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. 28  And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29  But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. 30  When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; 31  (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” Deut. 4: 26-31

Rom 11: 10-26

What does it mean to you to be in a covenant relationship with God? What obligations does this covenant relationship place on you?

WednesdayApril 12

A Royal Priesthood

In the book of Exodus, chapter 19, the Lord said to Moses: “‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 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” ’” (Exod. 19:3-6, NKJV ).

Here’s the gospel message, revealed millennia before the Cross: God redeems His people, saving them from sin and the bondage of sin, and then He commands them to love and obey Him as a special covenant people before Him and before the world.

Read 1 Peter 2:5 9 10  and Exodus 19:6 . What does Peter mean when he calls Christians a “royal priesthood” and “a holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9, NKJV )? What does this language say to us as Seventh-day Adventist Christians about our obligations?

“Spiritual house,” “chosen generation,” “royal priesthood,” and “God’s own people” are all terms of honor that in the Bible describe the special relationship that God had with the descendants of Abraham. Now, in the context of the New Testament, in the context of Jesus and the Cross, Peter is using the same covenant language and applying it to members of the church. The covenant promises made to Israel have now been widened to include not just the Jews who believe in Jesus but Gentile believers, as well. Yes, through Jesus, Gentiles, too, can claim to be children of Abraham. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29, NKJV ). Through Christ, anyone, regardless of birth, can become part of this “royal priesthood.”

A holy nation? A royal priesthood? Applied to ourselves, what should terms like this mean in regard to the kind of lives we live, both as individuals and as a community? How can we better live up to this high calling?

ThursdayApril 13

Proclaiming the Praises

The parallels with the Old Testament church didn’t end with just salvation and our being called out and chosen by God. The question is, Called out and chosen for what? Peter quickly gives the answer.

Peter points out that this special relationship is for a purpose. Christians are to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9, ESV ). This is what ancient Israel was to do. God called them to be witnesses of Him to the world. God’s purpose was to bless the whole world through ancient Israel, His covenant people.

Read the following texts. What’s the one point that they all have in common? Deut. 4:6 26:18 19 Isa. 60:1-3 Zech. 8:23 .

Ancient Israel, as the covenant people, had a mission to reach the world with the gospel, the salvation offered by the Lord. Christians have the same divine mission. They are called to share with others their experience and knowledge of God and what He has done for the world through Christ.

Read 1 Peter 2:10 . Why is this text so central to the whole mission and purpose of Christians?

The world is steeped in sin, in death, in impending doom. But Jesus gave His life to save everyone from this destruction. As with Israel of old, the terms of honor are also terms of responsibility. Christians have an extraordinarily high status: that of the people of God. But this brings the responsibility to invite others to share in that high status. As 1 Peter 2:10  states, Christians now form their own people. They once were not a people, but have now received mercy to become a holy people (see Hosea 1, 2). In the Bible, “holy” usually has the meaning of set aside for the purpose of worship. Therefore, as a “holy” nation, Christians are to be separated from the world, a distinction seen in the kind of lives that they live. They are also to be like a fire on a cold night, which will draw others to its warmth. Christians are tasked with the responsibility of sharing with others the glorious salvation of which they have partaken.

FridayApril 14

Further Thought: “The church is very precious in God’s sight. He values it, not for its external advantages, but for the sincere piety which distinguishes it from the world. He estimates it according to the growth of the members in the knowledge of Christ, according to their progress in spiritual experience.

“Christ hungers to receive from His vineyard the fruit of holiness and unselfishness. He looks for the principles of love and goodness. Not all the beauty of art can bear comparison with the beauty of temper and character to be revealed in those who are Christ’s representatives. It is the atmosphere of grace which surrounds the soul of the believer, the Holy Spirit working upon mind and heart, that makes him a savor of life unto life, and enables God to bless his work.” – Ellen, G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 298.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is it like to be called out of darkness into “His marvelous light?” (NKJV). What does that mean? If you were to explain this idea to someone who didn’t believe in Jesus, what would you say? What is the darkness? What is the light? And what is the difference between the two in the context of what Peter is talking about?
  2. “‘Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?’” ( 4:5-8, NKJV ). In what ways do these words apply to us as Seventh-day Adventists and what we have been called by God to do because of all that we have been given?

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