Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"An Inheritance Incorruptible"
April 8, 2017As we begin our study of the first book of Peter, chapter one, this week, it would be well for us to bow in prayer:
"Kind Father in heaven, Peter wrote a message to the elect — those to whom you have entrusted the oracles of God and whom you have called to proclaim the everlasting gospel. Peter is sleeping, but the words he wrote under Inspiration are present truth. Please send the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher, to open our minds and hearts to your Word. Help us to see Jesus in these verses, and the lessons He has for us. We thank you in Jesus' name, Amen."
The focus of the 1888 message was to pour water on dry, thirsty ground. Our church was only decades old and already our hearts were parched, barren, cracked.
In his lifetime Peter had stumbled upon some desert places in his own heart. Confident that he was truly converted, he boasted that he would never deny Jesus.
Witnessing the unfolding of Christ's sacrifice on the cross changed Peter's life. His hope was founded not upon his own merits, but in the risen Savior:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" 1 Peter 1:3.
That living hope transformed Peter's life from an ambitious, speak-first-think-later fisherman to an ardent disciple of Christ. Peter's letter is filled with encouragement and hope. He points the reader to Jesus, in whom we have an "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" 1 Peter 1:4.
Peter's great concern was that the readers would be "kept by the power of God through faith" (vs.4). Trials would come, he freely admitted, in order "that the genuineness of your faith . . . though tested by fire . . . may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (verse 7).
Peter admonishes Christian believers of every age to purify their "souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren," and to "love one another fervently with a pure heart" (verse 22).
Peter himself at one point believed that he loved Jesus. Yet the greatest trial of his life demonstrated the shallowness of his profession.
After Peter's denial of Christ and the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. The first two times, Jesus said, Do you agape me? to which Peter responded that he had only "phileo" love for Christ.
The third time Jesus said, "Peter, do you phileo me?" Peter again replied, Yes, I phileo you. (John 21:15-17)
Phileo, or brotherly love, is the warm love experienced between brothers and friends. But phileo (human) love is changeable, as demonstrated by Peter. That's all he had to offer Jesus.
Our lesson this week defines various Greek words translated as "love" in the English language. Of these three — phileo, eros, and agape — we find that agape is the word the New Testament writers most often use to describe the love of God.
Eros is conditional, based on outward beauty or some object upon which self may be gratified. Christ did not admonish men to "eros" their wives, but to "agape" their wives, to love them unselfishly as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25).
Agape is the self-sacrificing, others-centered love of Christ. It was Christ's agape love for us that motivated Him to leave heaven in order to save our thankless race. Agape is not based on man's response but originates from the heart of God.
Unfortunately, we are prone to the same self-delusion as was Peter. We can think that we love Christ based on our belief in certain biblical truths or our profession of faith.
For Peter, the cure for his self-love came by beholding Jesus, who loved him and gave himself for him.
With Peter, our only hope is to behold "the sight of that pale, suffering face, those quivering lips, that look of compassion and forgiveness" DA, p. 713.
Our church and our world needs a fresh glimpse of Jesus. The latter rain message of Jesus and His righteousness, when received into the soul, softens our hearts and transforms our fickle phileo love for Christ into ardent, agape love.
"There are none so hardened as those who have slighted the invitation of mercy, and done despite to the Spirit of grace. The most common manifestation of the sin against the Holy Spirit is in persistently slighting Heaven's invitation to repent" Desire of Ages, p. 324.
In Peter's words: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before" Acts 3:19.