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The Grace of God of 1 Peter
by Kenneth Haynes

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The Grace of God in 1 Peter
Commentary by Kenneth Haynes

This is an examination of the Apostle Peter’s concept of God’s grace as described in the book of 1 Peter. The translation used is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). When necessary for clarity, differences in translation between the NASB and the King James Version (KJV), Modern King James Version (MKJV) New King James Version (NKJV) and the Amplified Bible will be examined.

Peter summarizes the intent of his letter in Chapter Five Verse Twelve where he states, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God.” It is from this summarizing statement that we understand that the Epistle of 1 Peter is about the true grace of God.

The word “grace” found in 1st Peter is translated from the Greek word “charis.” The word is found ten times in the book of 1st Peter. Twice “charis” is translated as “favor,” and the other eight times it’s translated as “grace.”

Charis” is defined as “of manner or act: - acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, grace, gracious, joy liberality, pleasure, thank, thanks, thank worthy.”

Our examination of 1st Peter will reveal that the author was not only referring to “grace” as the “unmerited favor of God,” but also as, “God accomplishing for us that which we were unable to accomplish on our own.” By examining the original texts and comparing translations, it is hoped that a deeper and broader understanding of this grace will emerge for the reader. Through this exegetical method of examining the text, the reader will further understand and appreciate the true grace of God.

Peter begins the book in verse one with a declaration of who the letter’s author is: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” and who the intended recipients are, “To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Peter further identifies his intended readership by stating that they “are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:1-2).

The word translated as “aliens” is the Greek word “parepidēmos” and is defined as a “resident foreigner.” Peter is referring to the fact that the true citizenship of a believer is in heaven and we who are in Christ reside on earth as ambassadors in a foreign land. While Peter refers to specific places such as “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,” we understand by his statement “to those who reside as aliens;” that the letter is addressed to all believers living as resident foreigners, regardless of locale. Therefore the letter is just as applicable to modern day Christians as it was to those living in the time it was authored.

The word “chosen” in Verse One is taken from the Greek word “eklektos.” It is translated as “elect” in the KJV, and in the MKJV and it’s defined as “selected," and by implication it means "favorite.” We were once objects of God’s wrath, but in Jesus we obtained salvation and were adopted into God’s family. This is not done through any thing we could accomplish ourselves, but rather only through the finished work of Christ on the cross. Therefore we see the true grace of God at work when He calls us His “favorite, chosen or elected.”

The word “foreknowledge” in 1 Peter 1:2 is translated from the Greek word “prognosis.” It means “to know a thing before it happens.” From this we can understand that God knew from before the foundations of the world were created those who would be in Christ, chosen, His favorites.

The Greek word “hagiasmos” is translated as “sanctifying” in 1 Peter 1:2, where Peter states that we are sanctified by the work of the Spirit. It means “to be consecrated” and it can mean, “purification, purity, holiness.” This too demonstrates the true grace of God. We are purified and made holy by the work of His Holy Spirit, not by any effort of our own. It is unmerited, undeserved and completely at the discretion and desire of our Loving Father God.

Peter explains in Chapter 1 Verse 2 that our sanctification is for the purpose of obeying Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood. This is a reference to the consecration of Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to the Lord as described in Exodus 29:21. Just as Aaron and his sons were consecrated and set apart to minister as priests to the Lord, we who are in Christ are sprinkled with blood by the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of making us priests to the Lord.

While the sprinkling of blood in Exodus 29:21 was literal, the work of the Holy Spirit on the Christian believer is literal also, but done in a spiritual sense. The Greek word translated as “sprinkled in 1 Peter 1:2 is “rhantismos“ and is derived from the Greek word “rhantizō” which means to be “cleansed.” The word “rhantizo” is found in Mark 7:4. There it is a description of how the Pharisees “cleansed” themselves before eating. It is also found in Hebrews 10:22 where the author describes our hearts as being “sprinkled clean.” We can therefore understand that this spiritual cleansing is a work the Lord performs by His Holy Spirit, since we are unable to perform this work ourselves.

In 1 Peter 1:10, Peter writes, “the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.” He further writes that these prophets “made careful searches and inquiries seeking to know what person or time” was being mentioned as they “predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.” In verse 12 Peter explains that the prophets were actually serving us, by writing down the revelations given by “the Spirit of Christ.”

Some examples of the predicted sufferings of Christ can found in Isaiah and Psalms. Other examples of the glories of Christ are found in Psalms and Hosea.

Peter points out that not only was the grace of God through Jesus Christ prophesied, but in the prophecy itself, God was demonstrating his true grace towards us. God has revealed knowledge to us through the prophets that we could not possibly have uncovered for ourselves.

In 1 Peter 1:13 Peter writes, “Therefore prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The NASB translation of “prepare your minds for action” is translated in the KJV as “gird up the loins of your mind.”

To “gird up your loins” was an expression used to symbolize preparing yourselves for action. To “gird” means to “wrap, tie” or to “strap” an object onto the body. Soldiers in Biblical times would “gird on a sword,” tying it to themselves with cord or some kind of leather strap. “Girding up the loins” meant tying up the loose cloth surrounding the legs so the wearer could move about more easily and quickly. In Exodus 12:11 we are told that the Passover meal is to be eaten with the loins girded, shoes on your feet, your staff in your hand, in haste. It’s a picture of being ready to escape quickly. The NASB therefore accurately translates the Greek word “anazonnumi” found in the original text, which literally means to “gird afresh,” as in “prepare your minds for action.”

Peter exhorts us to prepare our minds for action, and fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Our complete hope must be on God’s ability to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves, revealed to us through his son Jesus Christ.

In 1 Peter 2:19-21, the MKJV reveals to us that it is God’s grace that allows us to endure under hardship, and suffering. 1 Peter 1:19 is one of the instances where the NASB translates “charis” as “favor” and the MKJV translates it as “grace.” The KJV translates “charis” in 1 Peter 2:19, as “thankworthy,” the NKJV translates it as “commendable” and the American Standard Version (ASV) translates it as “acceptable.” The implication conveyed is two-fold. The first is that we find “favor” with God when we endure under hardships and the second being that it is God’s grace that enables us to endure. We conclude therefore that God provides the means with which we endure, and then He commends us for doing so.

Peter reveals in 1 Peter 2:19 that we play a part in this gracious receiving of God’s enabling power to endure hardship. He explains that we find favor, “if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” The section translated “If for the sake of conscience toward God” can also be translated, “if on account of our comprehension of God.” The Amplified Bible translates this section, “as in the sight of God.” We conclude from this that it is our comprehension, or our faith in God, which enables the empowerment of God and results in the favor of God.

Peter explains in 1 Peter 2:21 that Christ is our example of “bearing up under sorrows,” having suffered for us on the cross, bearing our sin and shame that was not His own. Peter states that people will expect us to endure the harsh treatment of others for our own wrongdoing. However, when we patiently endure “under sorrows when suffering unjustly,” especially when we “do what is right,” we are demonstrating the grace of God to others and this “finds favor” with Him.

In 1 Peter 4:10 -11, Peter explains that every member of the body of Christ has received a spiritual gift. He admonishes us to use these gifts to serve each other, being good stewards of the gift which we have been given. The Greek word translated as “each one” is “hekastos,” which means, “each” or “every.” From this we can conclude that every Christian has been given some type of spiritual gift.

In 1 Peter 4:10, Peter uses the Greek word “diakoneo,” to describe using our gift to serve each other. “Diakoneo” is the word from which we get our word “deacon,” which means, “to be an attendant” or “to wait upon.” The idea is like a waiter or server in a restaurant. The Apostle Matthew used the same word “diakoneo,” translated as “servant” in Matthew 20:26 when Jesus said, “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.

Peter further explains that we are to use our gift “as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies.” Not only are we to use our spiritual gift to serve one another, but we are to use our spiritual gift in accordance to how God directs us and empowers us. According to Peter, the purpose of the use of the spiritual gift is for the glorification of God through Jesus Christ.

In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter admonishes us to be submissive and humble. The Greek word used to describe being “submissive” is “hupotasso.” It is a Greek military term used to describe being under another person’s leadership or command. It is the same word Peter used in Chapter 3 verse 1 to describe to wives how they should be submissive to their husbands and the same word the Apostle Paul uses in Ephesians 5:21 to describe how we are to be “subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Peter continues in 1 Peter 5:5 by exhorting us to “clothe ourselves with humility.” The Greeks had a word they used to describe the wearing of an apron for service. The word is “egkomboomai” and is translated here as “clothe.” We can therefore conclude that Peter is encouraging us to “wear humility like we would wear the apron of a servant.”

Peter comforts us in 1 Peter 5:10 when he tells us that after we have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace will perfect, conform, strengthen and establish us. It’s interesting to note that in this verse Peter describes God as, “the God of all grace.” The Greek words used to describe God in this fashion are “Theos,” “pas” and “charis.” Theos” is a Greek word that means “God.” “Pas” is a Greek word that means “all, any, every, the whole all.” In other words, nothing is excluded and God is complete in this aspect of who He is. “Charis” as we’ve discussed means “grace.” So from this we can see that God is truly the God of “all grace.” Grace originates from Him, and He is the embodiment of grace.

Peter explains in 1 Peter 5:10 that the God of all grace will perfect us. The Greek word Peter uses is “katartizo” and means, “to complete thoroughly, that is, repair or adjust.” It is reflective of the Apostle Paul when he says that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” While the Apostle Paul is speaking of the ongoing work of perfection, Peter is looking to the future when we will be made perfect and the work is complete.

Peter also says in 1 Peter 5:10 that the God of all grace will confirm us. The KJV translates the Greek word “sterizo” as “establish.” The NASB translates the same word as “confirm.” The definition of the word means, “to set fast or to turn resolutely in a certain direction or to confirm, fix, establish or strengthen.” Peter is telling us that God is the one who causes us to be firm and established in our faith.

Peter continues in 1 Peter 5:10 and tells us the God of all grace will "strengthen" us. The Greek word used here is “sthenoo,” which means “to strengthen in spiritual knowledge and power.” Peter uses this different word to show us the various ways and means God is going, by His grace, to work on our behalf. In this case, God causes us to increase in our spiritual knowledge and power.

Finally in this same passage, Peter tells us that the God of all grace will “settle” us. The Greek word used here is “themelioo,” which means “to lay a basis for, erect or consolidate, lay the foundation, ground, or settle.” Peter is showing us that God is the one who lays the foundation for the purpose of building us up.

The Apostle Peter is communicating to the saints using various Greek words that the God of all grace will do the work in us. He firmly establishes our faith, laying a foundation and strengthening us, causing us to grow in knowledge and power, until we are perfected in our faith.

Peter concludes the letter by explaining that the work that God does in us through establishing, strengthening, and perfecting us is the “true grace(5:12) of God. He (God) is the one who does the work in us.

In the NKJV the last portion of 1 Peter 5:12 is written as, “this is the true grace of God in which you stand.” The NASB translates that same section as “this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” Considering all that Peter has explained about how it is the God of all grace who does all these things in us, the NKJV translation seems more consistent with the overarching theme of “God doing for us that which we could not do ourselves.” The phrase, “in which you stand,” demonstrates that it is God’s grace which has placed us in Christ Jesus and enabled us to stand. “Stand firm in it!” seems to imply that it is the saint’s responsibility not to lose one’s footing.

Peter’s concept of the “true” grace of God is reflected throughout the book of 1 Peter. It is a reiteration of “God doing for us, that which we could not do for ourselves”, in various ways, using various examples. When people use the phrase “just give me a little grace,” they are really asking for mercy. If they were truly asking for grace, they’d be asking for someone else to do the work that they themselves either will not, or cannot do.

God has manifested His true grace in my own life in countless ways. To enumerate them all, or even a portion would take more time and space than this paper allows. One example stands out above the rest.

In 1984 while working as a police officer in southern California, I was severely injured while attempting to arrest a man. For the next 20 years, I suffered from migraine-like headaches that the doctors were unable to do anything about. During this time, God poured out His grace upon my life. He provided for me when I could not and He drew me and my family to Himself. Through a series of circumstances my wife and I re-dedicated our lives to serving and following after the Lord.

However, while in His service, the pain continued to worsen until I was unable to work for seven years. I was on 390mg of morphine a day to attempt to control the pain with additional medication and still the pain would break through.

One day, miraculously, God took away my headache pain and healed me completely. I have since been able to go back to work, I am completely drug free and I am able to continue to serve the Lord. The Lord is restoring the years that the locusts have eaten.

I was completely unable to help myself when the Lord intervened and did for me what no one else could do. The doctors were unable to do anything and were amazed by the miraculous healing of the Lord.

This is but one example of the true grace of God and I am forever grateful for it.

Ken Haynes

 


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