Lesson 43: “A Chosen Generation”
1 and 2 Peter; Jude
Purpose: To help class members live in holiness and be a chosen generation.
Some of you probably spent part of the last few weeks looking forward to seeing family members you haven’t seen for a while – if you didn’t have any visitors this Thanksgiving, you remember what it was like to anticipate a holiday in the past. What are some of the best parts about looking forward to an anticipated event? What is the flip side of anticipating a happy event – what is it like to look forward to something you dread? How can our anticipation – either with good expectations or fearful ones – affect the life we live today?
In many ways the First Epistle of Peter is about these ideas, about living a holy life today, even while we look forward to both better times with the Savior in the future, and also difficult times between now and that good future. The Lord – and his great apostle Peter – want us to be preparing for eternity, bracing ourselves for hardships to come, but most of all, not forgetting how blessed we are today, and how we should live today.
Peter wrote this epistle from Rome – which he calls “Babylon” in his letter – to the early Saints in five churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor, today’s Turkey. Unlike many of the letters of Paul, which were addressed to specific churches to address problems those congregations were having, Peter’s letter is a more general letter of counsel and instruction, applicable to all of the Saints. It sounds kind of like a talk you might hear from President Monson today, closing a General Conference: Issued from one city and addressed to the Saints in many places, reminding them of their eternal destiny, cautioning them about potential problems, and mostly counseling them to live as they have been taught. This is not the time to announce any startling new doctrine or change in policy; even though outsiders listening in might not understand everything being said, Peter – or President Monson – refer to things that the Saints already know and understand.
Let’s turn to First Peter and talk about some of his counsel. It’s a short letter, but we have little time and can highlight only a few verses here and there:
Scripture Discussion and Application
1. Live in faith and holiness as a chosen generation.
2. Follow the Savior’s example in enduring trials and persecution.
3. Partake of the divine nature and strive to make your calling and election sure.
4. Resist false teachers and those who deny the Second Coming.
1. Additional discussion.
2. “No … scripture is of any private interpretation”
Let’s start with the very first verse:
1 Peter 1:1:
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
Peter addresses the saints as “strangers,” rather than as brethren or friends or fellow-servants. What is a “stranger,” and why might Peter have chosen that term? Are you now, or have you ever been, a stranger in the same sense? How does a keen awareness that you are a stranger affect your daily life and outlook?
In the next several verses, Peter reminds his readers of the glorious hopes they have for the future through Jesus Christ, despite the probability of temptations and trials. The result of their hopes and faith, he says, will result in
7 … praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet bet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
How are you like these ancient saints, in relation to Jesus Christ? Those saints were evidently converted after the mortal life of Christ – just as we are. Peter acknowledges that although these saints have not seen Christ, they love him. Does that description fit you? Can you say that, like those saint, even though you have not seen Christ, you “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”? Have there been times in your life, or the life of someone you are close to, when that described your feeling for Christ? How can we increase the frequency of feeling “joy unspeakable” in remembering Christ?
The language of the King James Translation can often make it difficult to understand the words of scripture, especially when it is read aloud, and this seems to me to be true of verses 10-12. Yet let’s read them aloud, and rather than concentrating on untangling the grammar, try to relax and grasp isolated words and phrases that suggest how we can have the salvation of Christ revealed to us:
10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
These verses talk about different ways the Saints can learn about the salvation that Christ offers to us. What are some of those ways? Where and when do we hear the words of prophets? feel the Spirit of Christ? hear the gospel preached? know the Holy Ghost? commune with angels?
When we are reading scripture, or listening to preaching, or seeking the spirit, do we actively worship? Or are we sitting there matter-of-factly, listening with the same attention we would pay to the evening news? How can we use those times to really worship, and to develop a “joy unspeakable” in the salvation of Christ?
Peter continues with instruction on looking to Christ for salvation and putting our hope in him. Then he broadens his focus from Christ to include the Church itself, in verse 22:
22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
What is “unfeigned love”? How does a pure soul and the help of the Spirit lead to “unfeigned love of the brethren”? which brethren? What does “fervently” mean? If our love for our spiritual brethren is fervent, how will it be manifested?
I said a few minutes ago that the language of the King James translation can obscure the meaning of scripture, and I think that’s true much of the time. Yet it can also be incredibly beautiful and poetic, and convey ideas to us through poetry that would not strike us as forcefully if they were said in ordinary language. Let’s read verses 24-25:
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
Think about how often we talk about how important a man is: “The president is concerned about his place in history.” “This is a decision that will ring down through the ages.” “How you vote next year will affect the lives of your children and your grandchildren for generations.” So we have Peter describing the “glory of man” as a fragile, flowering grass, and your favorite political pundits emphasizing how important a national question is. Can they both be true? – in the short run? in the long run?
Peter goes on in the next verses to teach the saints about this life, this world, and their place in it. He warns them against certain vices that they must abandon:
1 Peter 2:1
1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
Those are words we’re all familiar with, but let’s define them and consider individually whether we have “laid them aside”: What is malice? guile? hypocrisy? envy? evil speaking? How do these things interfere with our living together in “unfeigned love” with our brethren, and in experiencing “joy unspeakable” with the Savior?
Jumping ahead to 1 Peter 2:9:
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:
Peter is quoting a passage from the Old Testament, the words of the Lord to Moses in the wilderness:
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
What did it mean to be a chosen generation in the days of Moses? in the days of Peter? in our day?
“A royal priesthood, an holy nation” – those terms sound powerful, don’t they? To be priests of the king, to be a nation – that’s power. But contrast those phrases to how Peter refers to the saints in verse 11: “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims.” There’s that word “strangers” again. And what is a “pilgrim”?
How are the saints, either in Peter’s day or our own, both a nation under a king, and aliens and wanderers, all at the same time?
Are there events in contemporary life that lead you to feel alternately a “kingdom of priests” and “strangers and pilgrims”? What are some of those times? How do you cope?
If I asked which you preferred, being a holy nation or a stranger and a pilgrim, we’d probably all say we preferred being the holy nation. But is that always pleasant and easy? What responsibilities come with being a royal priesthood and a kingdom of priests?
Is there anything attractive and enjoyable about being a stranger and a pilgrim?
If being a stranger allows us to distance ourselves from evils, is that always a good thing? Can it sometimes be an excuse for denying our part in contributing to an evil situation?
Peter offers advice on how to live as a stranger:
1 Peter 2:11-15
11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
This is familiar advice – turn the other cheek, pray for – and treat well – them that despitefully use you. This is not just sweet, theoretical advice from Peter, either. Peter is writing his epistle from Rome, probably during the rule of the Emperor Nero, who will eventually put Peter to death. Nero, in an attempt to focus Roman dissatisfaction away from the policies of Nero himself, has made the Christians in Rome the scapegoats for all that is going wrong there. Christians who have not fled from Rome are being imprisoned, and sent as victims to the wild animals and the gladiators in the Coliseum. Although the persecution of Christians is still centered at Rome, Peter foresees a time when those persecutions spread to the Roman provinces.
With that in mind, lets re-read verses 13 and 14:
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
Does knowing what is going on around Peter change your understanding of those verses?
In 2011, in the United States, we are facing nothing as extreme as what Peter was beginning to see. Does that mean we should find it easy to be submissive to the law, and to kings and governors? Is Peter’s counsel applicable to us and our circumstances? Does that mean we should always submit, in all things? or would that, in our circumstances, be only an excuse to distance ourselves from responsibility for the laws themselves?
Let’s read the end of chapter 2, from verse 19 to the end:
1 Peter 2:19-25:
19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward god endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
[Summarize class discussion, relating it as much as possible to these verses just read: that Christ’s example, whether in suffering for being strangers in the world or from the results of our own sin, Christ’s model of patience, of purity, of abstaining from guile, is the path we are to follow.]