The Coming Kingdom, Part 71 - Has the Church Taken Over Israel’s Role (1 Peter 2:9)
The Coming Kingdom, Part 71 - Has the Church Taken Over Israel’s Role (1 Peter 2:9)
May 29, 2019
First Peter 2:9, our last study for this quarter before the summer break, returning 9-4-19. In the book I wrote, The Coming Kingdom, which is a topical organization of biblical material, we are in Chapter 20, and I got a call from someone this week who writes 1,000-page books and who is famous in the scholarly world, in the free grace circles, anyway. He had read my book and liked it; he didn’t agree with everything, but that’s okay. He said that he liked how I tackled all the passages that go against your position. I replied with a question, ‘Can I get your voice on recording to share with my church because I think I have killed those poor people tracking them through all this material?’
As you know, we are basically teaching the concept that the Kingdom is a postponed reality, and if that is true, then what about all the passages where people seem to gravitate the argument that we are in the Kingdom now? That is the work we are doing right now, and we are coming near the end of that section, but we have looked at alleged ‘kingdom now’ passages in the ministry of Christ in the book of Acts, writings of the Apostle Paul, and now we are wrapping up some of that biblical material by looking at alleged ‘kingdom now’ passages in the general letters and in the book of Revelation.
Last week, we looked at Hebrews 12:28 and we were in the process of looking at 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Do you recall where Peter is quoting from in this verse? He is quoting Exod 19:5,6 basically information that God had given to Israel at Mt Sinai, and it is there that God told the nation of Israel that they are a kingdom of priests. According to ‘kingdom now’ theology, because Exod 19 is quoted in 1 Peter 2:9 and because Exod 19 calls Israel a kingdom of priests because it is quoted in the New Testament, the church is therefore, the Kingdom. In fact, this author, Paul J Achtemeir, is saying that the church is the new Israel: Replacement Theology. He says, “The two-fold description of the new community (1 Peter 2 5,9-10) shows by its language that the church has now [look at his language] taken over the role of Israel.” To see things like that is very common, yet what we are teaching here is that the Kingdom is future, and the Church is an interruption in God’s program for Israel; certainly not a replacement of it.
How would we handle 1 Peter 2:9? One of the things we talked about last time is that similarity is not the same thing as equality. Let’s pretend that all the promises related to Israel in Exod 19 are quoted in 1 Peter 2:9 to the whole Church. Even that in and of itself would not prove ‘kingdom now’ theology. Peter’s point could simply be that the Church is similar to Israel, but similarity is not the same thing as equality. Israel and the Church are very different but there are points of similarity. Both Israel and the Church are given a worldwide mission; both are God’s representatives on earth; both are called to holiness; both are God’s people, but that doesn’t mean that the Church is Israel. I used the analogy of the two cars in my garage; those cars look a lot alike but just because they’re similar doesn’t mean that car A is car B. My wife drives one car and I drive another, and you can tell the different between the two because mine is not always clean while hers is clean all the time. Just because two cars look alike doesn’t mean that they’re identical.
See slide on Two Issues concerning 1 Peter 2:9:
- Similarity is not equality
- 1 Peter is not addressed to the Church at large
Let me give you another way to handle 1 Peter: the above point B is helpful to studies in 1 Peter because most people misunderstand 1 Peter. My point here in item B above is that 1 Peter was not written to the whole Church, and I know that is a paradigm shift for many because 1 Peter is in the New Testament; it is a letter, therefore, 1 Peter is written to the whole Church. I want to show you tonight that 1 Peter was not written to the whole Church; it was written to a group within the Church. Am I saying that there is nothing in 1 Peter for us as Gentiles? Of course not, there are many applications to us; in fact, when reading 1 Peter, you will see things in there that you can directly apply to your life. What I am saying is that you cannot build a theology from a single verse in 1 Peter 2:9 to support the idea that somehow the Church has replaced Israel because 1 Peter 2:9 was never written to the whole church. It has a much narrower meaning, so that is the reason I am bringing this up.
This is counterintuitive to many so let me try to give you evidence for this. Look at evidence from 1 Peter itself, then I’ll answer some arguments that people use to argue that 1 Peter is written to the whole Church. Then I will show you what the early church fathers believed, and then I’ll bring it to a conclusion, explaining why this matters. The reason I am going into this is because there are statements out there like the one above by Paul J Achtemeier, who is building an entire theology on 1 Peter 2:9 and in the process, he is assuming that 1 Peter was written to the Church as a whole; it was not. It was written to a group within the Church. Who was 1 Peter to? It was written to believing Jews within the Church. If that is true, it undermines what Achtemeier is trying to do with 1 Peter 2:9.
What is some of the evidence from 1 Peter itself? There are six pieces of evidence. Look first at 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.” Notice that most New Testament letters when written to the Church or the churches, will say, ‘to the Church at Rome;’ “to the Church at Philippi;’ to the Church at Colosse;’ ‘to the Churches in Galatia.’ Does Peter say that at all? No; he doesn’t even say ‘to the Church’ or to the Churches of…’ That is our first clue that he is not writing to the Church. He is writing to a narrower group of people.
A second piece of evidence in 1 Peter 1:1 is the word, ‘scattered,’ a translation of the Greek word, ‘diaspora.’ Again notice 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens scattered [diaspora] [and there I have the Greek noun translated for ‘scattered’ in brackets; diaspora]… Now when doing a word study on diaspora, that word always means the Jews, without exception! It is only used two other times in the New Testament; see the book of James, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed [the Greek noun ‘diaspora’] …” it must be written to a Jewish audience because it is written to the twelve tribes. By the way, when you watch A&E and the History Channel, they will all tell you that the twelve tribes are lost, so they think that the northern scattering of the tribes by the Assyrians caused the twelve tribes to disappear 700 years before the time of Christ. That is odd because James didn’t believe they were lost. Seven hundred years later, James is writing a book to the twelve tribes, but there you can clearly see that ‘diaspora’ or ‘scattered’ refers to the Jews. The word is only used one other time in John 7:35, Jesus uses the same noun, the diaspora, “The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He?” Jesus had told them that in a little while longer they would not see Him, and they misunderstood what He was saying. The Jews started to ask themselves, ‘Where is He going; He must be going off into the dispersion?’ In context, they’re talking about the Jewish dispersion, the diaspora.
The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament, created about 150-200 years before the time of Christ because Alexander the Great, in the intertestamental period, had made the Greek language the known language of the entire world. Folks wanted to be able to read the Hebrew Bible in Greek, and the Hebrew Bible was not written originally in Greek but in Hebrew, and that is why we call it the Hebrew Bible; with a touch of Aramaic here and there. A Greek speaking person who wants to read the Hebrew Bible in Greek would have to read a translation, the Septuagint. In the Septuagint, I have the examples where ‘diaspora’ is used (see slide on Diaspora of 1 Peter 1:1). Diaspora always means the Jews.
Then the writings Pseudepigraphical writings called the Apocrypha, are basically the historical books that we Protestants do not accept as inspired but when doing a word study of ‘diaspora’ in those books, ‘diaspora’ once again always refers to the Jews scattered outside of their land. Doing a word study will reveal that diaspora is a technical word always referring to Jews outside the land every single time. Thus, when Peter uses that noun, ‘diaspora,’ I think that he is using it in the exact same way. John MacArthur, in his MacArthur Study Bible, for whatever reason, tries to blunt the force of this argument, trying to say that the definite article, such as in front of nouns, such as ‘the cat’ with cat being the noun and the being the definite article, means that this book was written to Gentiles. He says that the definite article is found in John 7:35 and in James 1:1 and is not found here in 1 Peter 1:1, so somehow in his mind, it changes the meaning of ‘diaspora’ making it refer to the Gentiles. I am not sure of what his motivations are for saying that, but the fact of the matter is that the definite article whether there or not, never changes the meaning of a word; it may change the intensification of a word, but never its meaning. For example, the definite article is not found in front of the word, apostle, in 1 Peter 1:1 either. That doesn’t change the fact that Peter was an apostle; it just doesn’t intensify it by saying ‘the apostle.’
I throw that in because so many believe that this book was written to Gentiles because of statements like the one in the MacArthur Study Bible, and I don’t know why he is arguing that, and I don’t think he has much of a linguistic argument.
So why do I think this was written to the Jews?
- It doesn’t say ‘the Church’ or ‘the Churches of’
- The word, ‘diaspora,’ always refers to the Jews outside the land everywhere else it is used, so why wouldn’t it mean that here?
- When going back to 1 Peter 1:1, Peter, uses not just ‘diaspora’ or ‘scattered’ but the word, ‘aliens.’ 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens [parepidēmois], scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.” When tracking down the word, ‘aliens,’ Peter also uses it in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens [parepidēmois] and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” Aliens [parepidēmois] is only used three times in the New Testament, and only refers to Jews; it is used twice in the book of Peter, and one other time in Hebrews 11:13, so just as the word, ‘scattered,’ the word, ‘aliens’ also has a technical meaning indicating a word that always means the same thing everywhere it is used, meaning that aliens always means Jews. Since Peter uses that in 1 Peter 1:1 and in 1 Peter 2:11 is another reason that I believe he is writing to a Jewish audience. In fact, when looking at the word, parepidēmois, means: par means away in Greek; epi means from. In the last part of the word there, demois, it resembles the words, ‘domestic’ or ‘democracy,’ so that part of the word means ‘home.’ The word, parepidēmois is a compound word. It is multiple words that make up a single word and when examining it piece by piece, it literally means ‘away from home.’ Wouldn’t that be a great description of the Jews at the time here that Peter is writing since many of them had been scattered and pushed out of their homeland through the persecution of Saul in Acts 8, who became Paul in Acts 9? Why am I convinced that Peter is writing to a Jewish audience? He doesn’t say ‘church’ or ‘churches’— he uses very specific words, ‘diaspora’ and ‘aliens’ which are only used of Jewish people.
- There is a fourth reason I believe that Peter is writing to a Jewish audience: Peter distinguishes his audience from the Gentiles; he carves them out separately from the Gentiles in two places, and in so doing, he is ethnically identifying that his audience is different than the Gentiles. If that is so, then his audience must be Jewish! Look at 1 Peter 2:12, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles [ethnos],…What is a Gentile? A non-Jew, and he uses the word ‘ethnos’ for nations to distinguish his audience from the non-Jews. If he is distinguishing his audience from the non-Jews, then his audience must be Jewish. Notice 1 Peter 4:3, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles [Greek noun, ethnos], having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” For the second time Peter distinguishes his audience from the non-Jewish Gentiles, which gives further impetus to the idea that the audience that he is writing to must be Jewish in nature. Many people, and this is where the MacArthur Study Bible goes, say ‘Well, Gentiles means unbelievers; not necessarily mean non-Jews.’ To that, I quote, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who has done wonderful work in this area in his book, The Messianic Jewish Epistles, Ariel’s Bible Commentary. His 1 Peter commentary and really in everything he has done in this commentary, I recommend to you, responds to the argument that Gentiles just means unbelievers says, “However, there is no exegetical basis for such a conclusion. That meaning is not consistent with the normal usage found elsewhere in the New Testament (ie, Rom 11:11-14). The word Gentile should be understood in its common, primary meaning as a reference to non-Jews.” Looking up ‘ethnos,’ for example, BDAG, which stands for Bower, Denker, Arndt, and Gingrich, a linguist. BDAG is short for one of the leading Lexicons of the time; every vocation has certain code words it throws around. When you are working in any industry, retail, mechanic, policeman, shortened terms; abbreviations are used often or else it would take a longer time to communicate with one another. Theology is the same — we have certain dictionaries, one of them being BDAG per above, so looking up ‘ethnos’ in BDAG, it essentially means Gentiles; not unbelievers. When Peter says to keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, is not just saying keep your behavior excellent among believers but ‘you Jews be different than the Gentiles.’ The fact that he is distinguishing his audience from the Gentiles indicates that he is writing to a non-Gentile audience, so the only way to write to a non-Gentile audience would be to address the Jews; that is who Peter is writing to — believing Jews in the diaspora.
- Going back to 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” observe the singular nouns here. Peter says to his audience, ‘you are a race’— race is a singular noun; a royal priesthood, a holy nation—singular noun; a people — singular for God’s own possession. That is a very poor description of the Church as a whole because the Church at large doesn’t consist of a We are made up of multiple races. The Church does not consist of a nation; we are made up of multiple nations. The church does not consist of a people, singular; we are made up of multiple peoples. The fact that the nouns are singular there indicates that he is addressing a race; a nation; a people; a race of people in the diaspora who are called aliens. He is addressing believing Jews. I think that if Peter is using this verse to describe the Church, he would have flunked basic ecclesiology. Peter did not take my ecclesiology class because in this class I taught that the Church is neither Jew nor Greek as Paul says, slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus per Gal 3:28. The Church is this great work of God that He has been doing for the past 2,000 years, and it doesn’t consist merely of Americans or Israelis; it is made up of every racial group, so why would Peter when writing to the whole church use singular nouns? It makes no sense. It does make a lot of sense if you understand that he is addressing a narrow audience within the church: Hebrew Christians. By the way, notice in 1 Peter 2:9 that Peter calls his audience a nation. Is the Church a nation? The Church is not a nation because Paul specifically says of the Church, “…I will make you jealous [Israel] by that which is not a nation. See what God is doing in this present age as He pours out grace upon the Church? He is pouring out so much grace upon the Church that the angels per Eph 3:10 and 1 Peter 1:19 are stooping down to observe what is happening; they just can’t believe the grace that we have. As that grace per John 1, ‘grace upon grace is poured out upon the Church,’ who is being provoked to jealousy? Unbelieving Israel. God has taken on another woman and is actually using the present age of grace to stimulate Israel to have a desire for the gospel which will be satisfied fully in the Tribulation once the Church is gone, but for now, God is at work in the Jewish people through His work in the Church by provoking them to jealousy. The instrument that He is using to provoke Israel to jealousy is specifically called, “not a nation.” The church is “not a nation.” So, if the Church is “not a nation,” then how could Peter be calling his audience, the Church, a nation? My answer to that is that he isn’t talking to the whole church. He is talking to a narrow group of Hebrew Christians within the Church.
- This takes us to my sixth reason why I think that Peter is addressing a Jewish audience. It has to do with the book of Galatians. Gal 2:7-8 gives Peter’s job description, “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, [the Gentiles because Paul said that he takes the gospel to the uncircumcised] just as Peter had been to the circumcised, [the Jews] (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles).” So, Paul says that he is the apostle to the Gentiles and Peter is the apostle to the Jews. If Peter is the apostle to the Jews, is it a big shock that his two books would be addressed to the Jews? It shouldn’t be. Again, people balk at this; they say, ‘Well, didn’t Peter share the gospel with Cornelius, a Gentile (Acts 10)? Yes, he did but by the time the book of Galatians is written in AD 49, all of that is past. It is pretty well settled that Peter’s job is to preach the gospel to the Jews and that Paul’s job is to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. I think this helps to interpret 1 Peter 5:13 where there is a lot of confusion. Even the Ryrie Study Bible note is confused on this. It says that Peter signs off, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.” People pontificate about what he means by Babylon. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Babylon, and I have a tremendous ability to babble on about Babylon. The bottom line is that when you see the word Babylon in the Bible, it means Babylon. Studying with us on the book of Revelation, and the rapture may occur before this happens, but eventually we will get to Rev 17 & 18, where we learn about a great city named Babylon, and everybody and their mother, right up to Calvin and Luther, right up to the present, Dave Hunt, who I like, will tell you that Babylon really means Rome. It doesn’t say Rome, it says Babylon. They’ll go over to 1 Peter 5:13 and say that Babylon means Rome there, therefore, Babylon means Rome in Rev 17 & 18. See what I have just done? I have just cut out the whole argument from under them because Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 means Babylon because Peter is the apostle to the Jews who were in Babylon because they went there for the 70-year captivity and when they came back into the land following this captivity as recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, most of them didn’t come back; most were in disobedience and stayed in Babylon. In fact, the whole book of Esther is about those Jews living in Babylon when Haman developed a plot to exterminate them, and in fact, when you look at Acts 2:9, you’ll see there were Babylonians listening to Peter preach on the day of Pentecost. If all the Jews are still in Babylon, and if Peter is the apostle to the Jews, it makes sense that he would go to Babylon. Why would he go to Rome? Wasn’t someone else already in Rome? Isn’t the book in the Bible called the book of Romans written to the Romans? Paul had already covered Rome, so why would Peter go where Paul had already gone? That makes no sense. If you just take the Bible for what it says where it states that he went to Babylon, that is where he went, because he was an apostle to the Jews, and that is where they were. So, who is the ‘she’? “She who was from Babylon greets you.” That could be his wife; he was married; he had a mother-in-law. It is hard to have a mother-in-law if you aren’t married. Did he take his wife 300 miles to Babylon, which is modern-day Iraq? Maybe so, maybe not, or the ‘she’ could be the Church in Babylon because the Greek noun for church is ‘ekklesia’ and the gender of ‘ekklesia’ in Greek is feminine, so that could also be the ‘she.’ So how do we get a church in Babylon? There were people listening to Peter preach on the day of Pentecost who got saved: Jews in Acts 2:9, from Babylon, and they went back to Babylon and spread the gospel. Peter is going to Babylon to minister to that group and probably to try to win others to Christ because that is where most of the Jews were. Put all of this together, and there are about five arguments for Peter addressing a Jewish audience. People will not take this lightly or lying down, so let me very quickly give you the arguments that others will use to dispute that this is actually a Gentile audience rather than a Jewish audience in 1 Peter.
- The first thing said is that it talks about how these people had come out of former ignorance, and they say that the Jews are the chosen people of God, so how could a conversion out of Judaism be a conversion out of former ignorance? They will quote 1 Peter 1:14, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ” So former ignorance couldn’t be the Jewish race or nation because that is God’s chosen people, and I would counter that by quoting 1 Tim 1:13, where Paul was converted. Was Paul Jewish? Yes, he describes his conversion out of former ignorance in 1 Tim 1:13.
- The second argument that some give for this cannot be a Jewish audience but a Gentile audience instead, is that it mentions that originally before they got saved they had been handed down empty tradition from their fathers. 1 Peter 1:18, “…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” People ask how that could be Judaism that they were converted from here? It makes more sense for them to be converted out of Gentile paganism because the Jews are the chosen people, and how could their backgrounds be looked at as empty tradition handed down from their fathers? The counter to this argument is that the empty tradition is Phariseeism, not Hebrew Bible, but Phariseeism. Phariseeism came about after the Babylonian captivity. What sin was the nation of Israel committing that put them into the 70-year captivity? It was the sin of idolatry. So, when they came out of the captivity after the 70 years, they figured out which sin put then into captivity, and they purged the land of idols. They over-reacted the opposite way and came up with extra-biblical rules, Phariseeism; man-made rules. They built a fence around the Law. Doing this is because you are so afraid of committing a particular you pass a lot of extra-biblical rules so you will never get close to that sin again. Thus, they placed all these rules about Sabbath breaking because they knew that sin put them into captivity; therefore, they’re always in conflict with Jesus, Yeshua—because He healed on the Sabbath, and the religious leaders got bent out of shape because Jesus was breaking their That is why Jesus talked about how He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and the Sabbath was meant for man. If the Sabbath was meant for man, why is there a problem with healing someone on the Sabbath? So, Jesus was operating according to the original intent of the Sabbath, but the conflict was with the man-made rules that they had imposed over the Sabbath; that is what legalism does; it builds a fence around the law. It starts out well intentioned, but eventually there are so many rules, that the tail starts to wag the dog. Someone very early on in the Bible who built a fence around the law is Eve, who was told by her husband ‘not to eat from the tree of knowledge, or ye shall surely die.’ When she is tempted by the serpent, she replied, ‘We can’t eat of it or touch it.’ Go back to the original command, and you will see that God never said anything about touching it. So, Eve added a man-made regulation because she was trying to keep herself away from the forbidden fruit. That is essentially the beginning of building a fence around the law; the beginning of legalism, which occurs when someone is so afraid of committing a sin, that with good intentions, they start to pass rules to keep them away from that sin. What happens over time is that the rules become more important than the original commands of God. That is why every church has to bow to legalism all the time. Leaders of a church, including ours, must ask themselves if what they are doing is in the Bible or not? What happens is that man-made regulations come in and start off well-intentioned, but if not monitored, then the tail can wag the dog. That is what Judaism was in the time of Christ; why Jesus says in Mark 7:13, “…thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; …” It was a complete mess; there was something called the Talmud they had passed. I had to read this in Seminary, and it is exhausting because it is rule after rule after rule not found anywhere in the Old Testament. They had one in the land of Israel and an entirely different one in Babylon that many called the Babylonian Talmud. So, there is the IRS tax code times 2, and when you understand this, you can see why Jesus was always in conflict with the Pharisees who were always imposing the rules. Jesus wanted to get back to the original intent of Scripture. That is also why 1 Peter 1:18 says, “…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” It is a statement against Phariseeism and Mishnah, etc.
- The statement that you have been removed from the empty tradition handed down to you could very easily apply to a Jewish audience if you understand the legalism that the nation was under at this particular time in history. Others say, ‘Well, it says here in 1 Peter 2:9 that they’ve been taken out of darkness into the light.’ Peter’s audience had been taken out of the darkness into the light. How could that be a description of one getting saved from Judaism when the Jews are the chosen people? Again, I will counter with statements that are made elsewhere in the Bible. Not sure we have time to look at all of them, but Isa 6:9,10; Matt 13:14; 2 Cor 3:13-16 will confirm that all those statements refer to Jews without Christ as in darkness. The statement, ‘you’ve been taken out of darkness’ could easily apply to a Jewish audience.
- The one that really gets people is they say they’d been redeemed out of idolatry. Peter says in 1 Peter 4:3, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” They had been saved out of idolatry, and there was one thing that first century Israel was not: They may have had a lot of problems, but they no longer worshiped idols, statues. Babylonian captivity ridded them of idolatry because they figured out that idolatry had gotten them shipped 300 miles to the east to modern-day Iraq for 70 years, and when they came back out, they vowed never to do that again. Then they rid the land of idols. Post-exilic Israel was non-idolatrous, worshiping statues. Pre-exilic Israel was very idolatrous, and the Pharisees started to come into the existence then and purged the land of idols. See Maps of Babylon that illustrates where they went into captivity. If that is true, then how could Peter say to a Jewish audience that they had been redeemed from idolatry? The answer is that idolatry is much more than a metal statue. You can be idolatrous without bowing down to a statue of any kind. Idolatry is anything in life put for significance, worth, or petition for need other than God. Paul calls idolatry a work of the flesh, the sin nature. I can go through my whole life without bowing down to a single statue and still be idolatrous. I could attach worth to money over God, or any number of things. So, Paul says in Gal 5:19-20, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry [the same word that Peter used in 1 Peter 4:3 to describe what the audience had been redeemed out of] …” Just because it says idolatry, that doesn’t disqualify 1 Peter from being written to a Jewish audience because idolatry can take place in the human heart since it is a work of the flesh.
- One other quick argument that some use to argue that Peter’s audience had to have been non-Jews is that ‘Peter uses the Greek version of his name.’ In 1 Peter 1:1, he calls himself Peter or Petros, the Greek name for Peter. Peter has one name in three languages. When he is using the name, ‘Simon’ [Luke 22:31], he is using the Hebrew understanding of his name; when he uses the name, ‘Cephas’ [1 Cor 1:12; 1 Cor 9:5], it is the Aramaic name for Peter; Petros is the Greek name for Peter. Some say that it couldn’t have been written to a Jewish audience because he would have used his Hebrew or Aramaic name. The answer to this is seen in to whom Peter is writing. See 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter [petros], an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.” To whom is he writing there? From where is he writing? Babylon in the east. Why take Babylon literally? Do we take the other locations in the above Scripture literally? At the beginning of the book, the geography is literal, but it isn’t at the end of the book? Don’t get me started. Why not just take the whole Bible for what it says? If you do that, it will ameliorate a lot of crazy, end times theories about the Vatican being the Antichrist in the last days. I am no fan of Roman Catholicism, and I think that Roman Catholicism will somehow be involved in the new world order, no doubt, but the center of authority in the book of Revelation is not Rome; it is Babylon because Babylon means Babylon. We get that with Israel. Doesn’t Israel mean Israel? It doesn’t mean the church, so why do we think Babylon means something else? Luther figured out quickly that if you call the Pope the Antichrist, that will be preach. People liked hearing that, so he kept doing that and became more popular. That Babylon equals Rome stuck, and it was Luther who pushed those ideas.
Why doesn’t Peter use his Hebrew or Aramaic name? Because it has to do with to whom he is writing in north central Galatia and what language they all spoke there. They spoke Greek even though they were Jews in the Diaspora; they were Greek-speaking. That is why he is using his Greek name; not necessarily because he is writing to a Gentile audience. So then 1 Peter is not addressed to the Church as a whole; it is addressed to Hebrew Christians within the Church; we can see that from 1 Peter itself and answering arguments against that position
What did the Church fathers believe? Per Gerald Bray, “With very few exceptions, the fathers believed that this letter was written by the apostle Peter and sent to Jewish Christians in the Diaspora. (Eusebius of Caesarea, Didymus, Andreas, Oecumenius). They recognized that the letter has close resemblances to James, and they accounted for this by saying that both men were apostles to the Jews, though Peter seems to have concentrated more on those who lived outside Palestine (Andreas).” So, the early church fathers believed that 1 Peter was written to a Jewish audience. Other more modern scholars who also believed this include John Calvin, Bengal, Wiest, Alford, English, and Weiss. This is not some weird view here.
If there is evidence from 1 Peter that the book was written to a Jewish audience, and if the arguments that it was written to a Gentile audience can be answered, and if the earliest church fathers believed it was written to a Jewish audience, that means that 1 Peter 2:9 has a very limited application. 1 Peter is part of a unique set of books in the New Testament; there are six of them that are written specifically to answer questions that a Jewish Christian would be struggling with in the age of the early church. What are those books? Matthew, it is very clear that John is written to a Gentile audience. The epistle James written to the twelve tribes; Hebrews. Peter is the apostle to the Jews who wrote two books: 1 Peter and 2 Peter, and which book sounds a lot like 2 Peter? Jude, it is taken to be written to a Hebrew Christian audience. It is important when reading these to understand who the recipients are. I’m not saying as a Gentile Christian that I can’t apply truths from these books to my life, but I’m not going to build a theology of Replacement Theology from 1 Peter 2:9 when 1 Peter was not even written to the whole church.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum says, “Of the twenty-one epistles in the New Testament, five were written to Jewish believers dealing with the needs of Jewish believers and specific issues that Jewish believers faced. There are things in these epistles applicable to all believers, but some are true only of Jewish believers. These five epistles (he has left off the gospel of Matthew because he is only dealing with the epistles in his work here) are Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, and Jude.”
Therefore, 1 Peter 2:9 has a highly limited application. What is 1 Peter 2:9 really saying then when it calls the audience a kingdom of priests? It is saying that Israel as a whole failed to live up to God’s calling at Mt Sinai. She failed to live up to her calling as a kingdom of priests but the believing Jewish remnant within the Church has fulfilled that calling. So, Israel failed to live up as a nation to her calling as a kingdom of priests thus far in redemptive history, but the believing Jewish remnant within the Church is fulfilling that calling — this is Peter’s point.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum puts it this way, “It should be kept in mind that Peter is writing to Jewish believers. Throughout Scripture, there are always two Israel’s: Israel the whole that comprises all Jews; and, Israel the Remnant that comprises only believing Jews. Here, Peter distinguishes between the Remnant and the non-Remnant. Replacement Theology, however, relies on this passage as proof that the true Israel is the church…” They all do this. “This is a favorite passage for those who teach Replacement Theology. They teach that what the Old Testament stated to be true of Israel, Peter now applies and states to be true of the Church [meaning that the Church has replaced Israel and the Kingdom has begun]. Thus, they conclude that the Church has replaced Israel. However, there is no hint in the epistle that Peter is addressing the Church as a whole. On the contrary, in the epistle’s introduction (1:1-2), he stated that he was addressing Jewish believers who specifically comprised what was the then Remnant of Israel —[what would we call that believing Jewish remnant within the Church? Paul has a word for them: the Israel of God. Gal 6:16 doesn’t cover the whole church. it covers the believing Jews within the Church. That is who Peter is addressing. “It is important to recognize that the contrast Peter makes here is not between the church and Israel, or between believers and non-believers, or between unbelieving Jews and believing Gentiles. Rather, the contrast here is between the Remnant and the Non-Remnant of Israel. Peter’s point is that while Israel the whole failed to fulfill its calling, the Remnant of Israel has not failed to fulfill its calling.” So, if what we have said here is true, you cannot use this verse to promote Replacement Theology because the letter was never written to the whole church. ‘Let’s pretend it is written to the whole church.’ Then use Argument A: similarity is not equality. The truth of the matter is that the book was never written to the whole church; that is basically how you handle 1 Peter 2:9.
When we regather after summer hiatus, we will look at a few verses in the book of Revelation; you are already experts in this book that allegedly support Kingdom Now theology. Then we will be looking at some miscellaneous arguments that are used outside the Bible to support Kingdom Now theology. Then we will be getting to the so-what question: why it matters, which I probably should have written first. I have dragged you along for 70 lessons and you are wondering why this is significant. Part III of the book is the so what; it changes the mission and calling of the Church which is what we will get into.