Life-Study of 1 Peterby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
With this message we begin our Life-study of the Epistles of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude. In the past we have somewhat neglected the writings of Peter. We have spent much time and energy on other books of the Bible, especially the writings of Paul. Perhaps a part of the reason for our neglect of 1 and 2 Peter is the over-exalting of Peter by Catholicism. Catholicism considers Peter their first pope. We do not agree with the claim of Catholicism concerning this. Thus, our Peter, the Peter revealed in the Bible, is in certain respects different from the concept of Peter held by those in Catholicism. Because Catholicism exalts Peter in an improper way, I have paid less attention to Peter’s writings.
However, I have given a number of messages on 1 and 2 Peter. In 1973 I had a conference on 1 and 2 Peter in Vancouver, British Columbia. Also in the same year I gave messages on grace in the writings of Peter during a conference held in San Francisco. These messages were published in The Stream (in Vol. 12, No. 1, February 1974, and No. 2, May 1974). In those messages I stressed strongly that Peter does have something rich, high, and particular to minister to us.
Paul wrote fourteen Epistles, but Peter wrote only two, containing a total of eight chapters. Nevertheless, even though Peter’s writings are brief, he uses certain terms that cannot be found in the writings of Paul. For example, Peter speaks of the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:19). Although Paul speaks concerning the blood of Christ, he does not use this particular expression, the precious blood.
At this point we need to see that a particular characteristic of Peter’s writing is his use of adjectives, especially high adjectives. Along with the precious blood, Peter mentions the incorruptible seed, unfading glory, and divine power. Paul does not use these expressions. Peter, however, had the habit of using such adjectives. But this was more than a habit; it is an indication that something had truly been built into Peter’s character.
During the years he followed the Lord Jesus, Peter saw many things. But during those years he did not know the significance of what he saw. In fact, as we read the four Gospels, we may think that Peter was foolish. Although Peter did not behave in a clever way, the Lord Jesus selected him and put him ahead of all the other disciples. For this reason, in the Gospels Peter’s name is usually listed as the first of the disciples.
Peter did not have the spiritual understanding of the things he had seen. He lacked the proper apprehension of them in life. This was why in the message given in chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen of John, the Lord Jesus spoke of the Spirit of reality: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of reality, comes, He will guide you into all the reality; for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13).
The Spirit of reality did come on the day of Christ’s resurrection, and Peter was probably the first one to be infused with this Spirit. This explains why the Peter in the first chapter of Acts is so different from the Peter in the Gospels. In the Gospels, Peter often spoke in a nonsensical way. In Acts 1, however, Peter did not speak like this. Rather, when he stood up to speak, he was transparent, crystal clear. Peter became transparent because the Spirit of reality had entered into him. This wonderful Spirit, who had been infused into Peter, then reminded him of all the things he had seen and heard. This can be proved by Peter’s own writings. For instance, in 2 Peter 1:16-18 he refers to the time he, James, and John were with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. This indicates that the Spirit of reality had reminded him of that event and had shown him the significance of it.
The Spirit reminded Peter of all the things he saw when he was with the Lord Jesus for three and a half years. Peter saw many things, but he did not have the proper apprehension or understanding of them at the time. But after the coming of the Spirit of reality and through the Spirit’s reminding him of those things, Peter began to understand their significance. Peter may have said to himself, “Oh, now I know why the Lord bothered me so much and why He often exposed me. I recall the way I spoke to the tax collector. He asked me if the Lord paid the poll tax, and immediately I answered, ‘Yes.’ Right after that the Lord Jesus put me to shame by telling me that it was not necessary for Him to pay the half-shekel. Then He sent me fishing and told me I would catch a fish with a shekel in its mouth. Now I know that when I answered with a yes, the Lord would say no, and when I would say no, He would say yes.” After the Lord’s resurrection and after the Spirit of reality had come into Peter, he underwent such a change.
Through the Spirit of reality something solid, high, rich, and strong was built into the very fibers of Peter’s being. Therefore, when he spoke concerning the Lord’s blood, he added the word “precious.” This adjective touches our feeling. As he uttered this word, Peter must have had a certain feeling within him regarding the preciousness of the blood of Christ. In 1:18 and 19 he says, “Knowing that you were redeemed not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ.” Do you not believe that Peter expressed a particular feeling when he uttered these words? In verse 23 of the same chapter Peter goes on to say, “Having been regenerated, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the living and abiding word of God.” In this verse Peter speaks of the incorruptible seed and of the living and abiding word. In 1:4 he describes our inheritance as “incorruptible and undefiled and unfading.” Thus, in these verses, as illustrations of Peter’s practice of using adjectives, we have the words precious, incorruptible, living, abiding, undefiled, and unfading. This indicates that in this particular characteristic Peter is stronger, higher, and richer than Paul.
First Peter 2:21 says that Christ suffered on our behalf, leaving us a model that we should follow in His steps. The Greek word rendered “model” is difficult to translate. Some versions use the word “example.” Literally, the Greek word means a writing copy. Thus, the Lord Jesus is our writing copy, an under-writing used by students to trace letters in learning to draw them. A modern term to describe the process of copying is “xeroxing.” Xeroxing does not involve following or imitating. On the contrary, xeroxing is a matter of reproducing an original. (See the message entitled “Spiritual Xeroxing,” published in The Stream, Vol. 12, No. 1, February 1974). Christ is a writing copy not for us to imitate nor merely to follow. Rather, He is a writing copy to be xeroxed into us. This means that we all should become reproductions, xerox copies, of Christ. This is the significance of the Greek word translated “model” in 2:21, a term not used by Paul in his writings.
In 3:7 Peter uses another unique expression—“grace of life.” We are familiar with the words grace and life, but not with the expression “grace of life.” As weaker vessels, the wives are joint-heirs with their husbands of the grace of life. What a sweet expression! We, however, may be familiar with the grace of salvation or the grace of forgiveness without ever having been impressed with the grace of life. In his writings, Paul does not use this particular precious and sweet expression.
In 4:17 Peter says, “Because it is time for the judgment to begin from the house of God.” Here we have a particular expression on the negative side: God’s judgment beginning from His own household. Paul does not tell us this. But Peter is very particular in the matter of God’s judgment beginning from His own household.
Paul often uses the expression “grace to you and peace.” Peter, however, twice speaks of grace and peace being multiplied. In 1:2 he says, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied,” and in 2 Peter 1:2, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Peter desires not only that grace be with the saints, but that grace be multiplied to them. Have you ever thought about what it means for grace to be multiplied? Have you ever heard of a sermon or message telling you that grace and peace can be multiplied? Most of us may find this expression puzzling. Peter’s use of the word “multiplied” is another illustration of his particularity. In this matter, not even Paul was as particular as Peter, for he never spoke in his Epistles of grace and peace being multiplied.
The word multiplied indicates that a certain thing is present and that instead of having another of the same thing added, we need what we have to be multiplied. This means that we need the multiplication of the grace we already have. We do not need another grace. What we need is to have multiplied the grace we have already.
With the thought of multiplied grace as the base, Peter goes on to speak in 4:10 of varied grace: “Each one according as he has received a gift, ministering it among yourselves as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” We all should be good stewards of what Peter calls varied grace, grace in different aspects and of different categories. Peter mentions grace again in 5:10, where he speaks of the God of all grace. Therefore, in 1 Peter we have four unique expressions concerning grace: grace of life, multiplied grace, varied grace, and all grace. The grace of life is being multiplied in us. Then it becomes the varied grace and eventually, the all grace. As a result, we do not have grace just from one direction, but from many directions, for example, from the heavens and from the earth, from our husband or wife, and from our children. The more children we have, the more aspects of grace we shall experience. If you have four children, you will enjoy grace in four aspects. But if you have more children, you will enjoy more aspects of grace. In like manner, if a brother is unmarried, he will lack a particular aspect of grace. A married brother will experience grace in a particular aspect. Furthermore, if a brother’s wife is naturally very good, he may be short of a rich aspect of grace. But if his wife is difficult and even somewhat stubborn, he will have the opportunity to enjoy a very specific and rich aspect of grace. Grace varies according to our situation and environment. For example, it will vary according to the kind of wife you have, whether she is naturally submissive or difficult. If your wife is good, you will not have as much grace as if she were difficult. Likewise, if you do not have any children, you will not enjoy the aspect of grace related to children. Oh, we all need to know this varied grace!
In 2 Peter 1:3 Peter says, “As His divine power has granted to us all things which relate to life and godliness.” It seems that Peter likes to use the word “all.” In 5:10 he speaks of all grace; here in 2 Peter 1:3, of all things. The words “all things which relate to life and godliness” are a tremendous expression. We cannot find such an expression in the Epistles of Paul. Peter is the one who tells us that the divine power has granted us all things related to life and godliness, that is, all things pertaining to life inwardly and to godliness, the expression of God, outwardly.
In 2 Peter 1:4 Peter goes on to say that God “has granted to us precious and exceedingly great promises, that through these you might become partakers of the divine nature.” The Greek word “exceedingly great” is difficult to translate. If it is rendered literally, it should be translated as “greatest.” God has given us promises that are not only precious, but promises that are exceedingly great.
According to 2 Peter 1:4, God has granted us precious and exceedingly great promises so that through them we may become partakers of the divine nature. We are partakers of the divine nature. Often when I come to this point, I am beside myself with joy. How marvelous that we can be partakers of the divine nature! Do you realize that you are a partaker of the divine nature, a partaker of the nature of God? We human beings can actually become partakers of the divine nature. This means that, as believers in Christ, we have not only the divine life, but we are now partaking, enjoying, participating in, the divine nature. If Paul were to read such an expression, he would have to say, “Brother Peter, in this matter, your writing surpasses mine.”
In his writings Paul does not tell us anything about the new heavens and new earth. This is mentioned in the writings of Peter and of John, who was intimately related to Peter. (Often in the book of Acts the names of Peter and John are put together.) In the book of Revelation John gives a long record of the new heavens and the new earth. Peter, however, utters only a short word in 2 Peter 3:13: “But according to His promise we are expecting new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Peter’s word concerning the new heavens and the new earth is yet another illustration of how his writings contain particulars not found in the writings of Paul.
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