Sabbath School Lesson for April 22-28, 2017
Those who have accepted the gospel of salvation and submitted their lives to God and the service of others, are not to be surprised that they are misunderstood and asked to suffer for their faith. Peter tenderly outlines the reasons their persecution is to be expected and endured.
He, and many other early Christians, were the object of much criticism and punishment for simply following their Lord during those first centuries of the church. And Peter wants them to understand that Jesus also suffered, and that their reward far outweighs any trial or suffering they are asked to bear.
How to experience this call of suffering on a practical level, without being swept up with the evil course of the world, is Peter’s concern. As you will see in the remainder of his first epistle, the love of God shines and upholds us throughout any burden we may be carrying in our life. Never has sharing that love been so important to the survival of the church, both in its early stages, and now in the end of time.
Scripture Gem: ” ‘For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ “ 1 Peter 3:12 NKJV
At first this verse (taken from Psalm 34:15, 16, when David was fleeing from Saul) may sound harsh, at least to those who do evil. Our holy God MUST turn his face away from evil, including those who are doing it.
On the other hand, it must have been very encouraging to Peter’s readers, as it was to David, to know that God was listening and witnessing their trials. How many times have we wondered, when our prayers have been seemingly unanswered, whether God was even there listening to us?
Our faith wavers when we are faced with unbearable loads of care and anxiety. As our stress level mounts, so does our fear that God is not able or caring enough to act in our favor.
Peter wishes to remove this barrier of faith. We can know that God will act in accordance with His will, as we submit to His wisdom and power. Our blessing comes when we rest in the comfort of His enduring arms of love.
Sunday: Being of “One Mind”
Peter knew that in order for them to survive the persecutions being heaped upon them, Christians needed to draw close together and be of one mind. This “calling” was mentioned in 1 Peter 2:21 and now again in chapter 3, verses 8 and 9.
As John reveals that we can know God’s true followers by their love for one another (John 13:35), Peter reminds them of the need for love in this passage in chapter 3.
There is great need for us to have compassion and tenderhearted sympathy for our brothers and sisters in the faith. After all, if we are inheritors of God’s blessings, then we’d better get along with our fellow heirs and support each other.
This is one inheritance we must not fight over. For self to survive, it must be crucified, as we choose to uplift one another above our own needs and desires. We become of one mind, as we unite under God’s cause, making His will, which includes our inheritance, the most important thing in our lives.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 3:9 and 2:21. How is it a blessing to follow Christ’s example of suffering? Do these verses give us a reason why we suffer?
Read 1 Peter 3:8, 9 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 26. Although we are parts of the same whole, does it mean we are all the exact same part? How does this describe how we are of one mind then?
Read 1 Peter 3:10-12 and Galatians 2:20. How can we ever accomplish what Peter asks without dying to self, as Paul describes? How is living righteously related to trusting God?
Monday: To Suffer in the Flesh
1 Peter 3:13-17 shows us that there’s a difference in suffering for the good we do, as opposed to the wrong things. We can have a good conscience when suffering for doing right. He then goes on to describe Christ’s suffering and how it relates to ours.
Most of the time the word “flesh” is used negatively in the Bible to indicate our sinful nature and passions. In the last part of chapter 3, we are shown how Christ suffered and died in the flesh (by bearing our sins in His body), but came back to life at His resurrection (He was “made alive by the Spirit” 1 Peter 3:18 NKJV).
Peter goes on to explain the symbolic meaning of baptism. It signifies that our evil tendencies have been put to death and no longer rule us (going down into the water). And also the newness of life in the Spirit that is felt after we come up from the water.
Reference is made to the story of Noah. The fact that the earth was washed away with water, with only Noah and his family saved from the prophesied disaster. Noah’s family also suffered persecution during the preparation of the ark and preaching about the coming event.
Therefore, just as Jesus and Noah suffered in their bodies for the redemption and renewal of the earth, we can expect suffering and persecution as we prepare for the Second Coming of our Lord.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 3:18-22, 2 Peter 2:19, Luke 4:18, 21. Who were these “captives” or “spirits in prison” that Jesus preached to? Did Noah preach to dead spirits or live ones, who had died spiritually?
Read 1 Peter 3:21 again. How does baptism save us? Does this mean we are lost without it?
Read Romans 6:1-11. How can we be dead and alive at the same time? How does our suffering fit in with these explanations of our baptism?
Tuesday: Born Again
Peter draws a sharp line between the lifestyle of those who are lost and those who are saved. Those who are following the “partying” lifestyle of this world, as we might call it today, think it strange that we do not share their idea of the “good life”. But, as Christians, we know there’s something much better.
The experience of being born again surpasses all the fleeting pleasures this world has to offer.
- For every drunken splurge, there is the hangover the next day.
- For every drug-induced thrill, there is the threat of losing someone you love, who is not included in your habit.
- For every spending spree, there are the debts that you are accumulating and the temporary nature of your pretended happiness.
Peter wants us to go even further though, and consider the judgment to come. Who will be happiest then?
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 4:1-6. With whose mind should we be facing our suffering, and why does this help us bear it (v. 1)? Why do others speak evil of people who are doing good (v. 4)?
Read 1 Peter 4:4 again. Why are others wondering about our lifestyle? Do we have to preach a sermon in order for people to know about God? What about our demeanor makes them take notice, and does it always lead to persecution?
How has Christ made a difference in your life? How does being born again change us, both outwardly and inwardly?
Wednesday: Sins of the Flesh
Sins of the flesh have become commonly thought of as sexual sins, and of course, this kind of immorality is certainly part of how our bodies become instruments that Satan uses against us and God.
We know that sex and marriage were given to the human race for good, however. The marriage relationship even represents the closeness God desires with His people. This closeness has been severely jeopardized as Jeremiah 3, Ezekiel 16, Hosea 1-3 clearly tell us.
We can understand then why sexual sins are among those behaviors that especially sadden our Maker. But other sins are just as grievous. Peter also mentions drunkenness, partying, and other idolatrous actions. All these behaviors are idolatrous in the sense that we are putting our own pleasures and desires above God’s. Anything that may lead to an addiction sets us up for making that substance our god.
It is no wonder that Peter warns against such lifestyles.
Discussion Questions: Read Genesis 2:18, 24. What was God’s purpose for marriage in the beginning? Why is this most important human relationship still needed and valued by most of the world?
Read 1 Peter 4:3, 2 Samuel 11:4, 1 Corinthians 5:1, and Genesis 19:5. What kind of sexual sins have been condemned in the Bible? Why are they condemned? What other ways has Satan attacked marriages and families?
Read Luke 6:42 and John 8:7-9. Although it’s easy to accuse someone else of sexual sin, why should we be careful of judging others and exposing them? Why do you think Jesus wrote their sins in the sand and didn’t just say them out loud? How were the Pharisees finally convicted?
Thursday: Love Covers All
We must remember that the believers in Peter’s time believed that Jesus’ Second Coming was going to be very soon. 1 Peter 4:7, 8 declares…
“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers, and above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ “ NKJV
Of course, we understand that we are all just a moment away from our own death, so this advice to be prayerful and love each other while we can is as important as ever.
The idea that love covers a multitude of sins is reassuring, especially when Peter spoke of it right after listing some very despicable behaviors that are not based on love. At least not on true agape love.
Since we are covered with the robe of Christ’s righteousness then (Isaiah 61:10), and God IS love (1 John 4:8), we can be assured that this covering works perfectly to hide our sins from the world, and even from our God (Isaiah 44:22 and Micah 7:19).
What better incentive do we have to show this love to others? As “stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10), we need to share this bountiful gift of grace. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling”, as Peter says.
Discussion Quesions: Read 1 Peter 4:7-11. Make a list of all the things Peter advises the church to do, in order to prepare themselves for their inheritance.
Read 1 Peter 4:8 and Proverbs 10:12. How can this love also help cover the harsh feelings that occur when someone has sinned against us? In what practical ways can we allow this to happen?
Read 1 Peter 4:7, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16. Discuss why Peter and others in the early church believed the Second Coming might even be in their lifetime. How did Paul try to correct this error of thinking and why?
Once we have accepted the gift of salvation and submitted our lives to God, we must come to grips with how to live the born-again life, even though that may include suffering of one kind or another.
No matter our circumstances, we are to live pure, holy lives, full of love for God and fellowman. This happens only when we are of one mind with Christ and each other.
Therefore the topics explored this week in 1 Peter, chapters 3 and 4, are…
- why we should be of “one mind”–Sunday
- how we are to suffer in the flesh–Monday
- what it means to be born again–Tuesday
- what are the sins of the flesh–Wednesday
- how does love cover all–Thursday
Embracing the Message
There were many misconceptions believed about the early church:
- the fact that they worshiped and met in private homes made some think they performed the secret rites of some kind of cult
- the Lord’s Supper, which they celebrated as symbolizing the “body” and “blood” of Christ, sounded like cannibalism to outsiders
- since they called each other “brother” and “sister” and greeted each other with a “holy kiss”, they were accused of practicing incest and other forms of immorality
What misconceptions may be held by your community about the church you worship in? What can you do to remove these misunderstandings and be seen in a more favorable light?
Next Week: Suffering for Christ, Lesson 6
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/