In the epistles of Peter we have broad and powerful instruction from the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of former days. Richard Lloyd Anderson has said, "The two short letters we have from the Apostle Peter are treasures. Though containing about 3 percent of the New Testament, they survey the major doctrines of the early Church: the Atonement, repentance and baptism, priesthood power, the threatening apostasy, and Christ’s second coming. These doctrines come from no less than the person given the keys to lead Christ’s church anciently"(1) (see Matt. 16:18-19).
The author of the epistle of Jude is probably the individual referred to as "Judas the brother of James" in Acts 1:13 as one of the Twelve. His message is one of dire urgency; the Church is in serious danger of apostasy, and his purpose is to plead for renewed faithfulness.
Peter and Jude must have been close associates in the ministry, as portions of Jude and 2 Peter are strikingly similar. Both apostles were clearly worried about the onset of apostasy within the Church; nevertheless, they shared a strong faith in the "chosen generation" of those that are "sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ."
In this lesson we will deal with three key themes of the epistles of Peter and Jude:
· Following the Savior's example in responding to trials and persecution
· Developing the attributes of a "divine nature"
· Recognizing and guarding against false teachers
What can we do to follow the Savior's example in responding to trials and persecution?
Peter lays out the promises of exaltation and indicates that only those who endure well the earthly trial of faith will inherit the glories of the celestial kingdom.
1 Peter begins with a brief overview of the plan of eternal life. Those who qualify are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2). In the premortal world, we were all foreordained to receive our exaltation, but only by our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel would the promise be realized. "Sanctification of the Spirit," which is the sealing of the Holy Spirit of promise, comes only to those who obey and are "sprinkled" with the blood of Christ.
This sprinkling refers to the ordinance of Solomon's temple, where the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and sprinkle the sacrificial blood to sanctify the nation of Israel.(2) Of course, this was done as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: "By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12).
Having thus been cleansed of sin by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we become heirs "to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 1:4).
Peter makes clear, however, that it is only through enduring faithfulness that we can claim that inheritance. We learn in latter-day revelation that the celestial kingdom is reserved for those who receive the ordinances of the gospel and "who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise" (D&C 76:51-53). Peter explains what it means to "overcome by faith" and points out that it is the promise of that sealing up to eternal life that makes it possible to overcome--even to rejoice in overcoming.
In the knowledge of this plan "ye greatly rejoice," says Peter, "though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:6-7).
It is the testimony and understanding of God's plan that gives us power to withstand the "trial of faith." Peter teaches that the Saints will encounter adversities "if need be" to refine their souls and enable them to rule and reign in the celestial kingdom. He compares this trial to the refining process for gold, which requires heat and pressure to burn out the impurities. In this sense, the trials and adversities we experience in life are intended as blessings to fit us for the kingdom of God. The trials of life, as Peter says, are to us "much more precious than of gold which perisheth." Job understood this principle when in the midst of his severe sufferings he observed: "I know that my redeemer liveth . . . he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 19:25, 23:10).
How then should the Saints bear their trials? In 1 Peter 2, the Apostle "beseeches" us as pilgrims to follow the Savior's example:
· Be honest. "Have your conversation honest among the Gentiles" (v. 12).
· Obey the civil law: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (v. 13).
· Be gracious to everyone: "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king" (v. 17).
· Bear it patiently when wronged: "For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 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" (v. 19-20)
· Do not answer evil for evil: "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not" (v. 21-23).
Family life has trials of its own. In chapter 3, Peter teaches married couples to honor one another. To wives, he counsels "a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (v. 4). Where
All Saints are exhorted to be united as befits those for whom an Atonement has been made. "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (v. 8-9).
Those who overcome by faith, Peter promises, enter into that great blessing--eternal life in the presence of God--as "a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9). The term "royal priesthood" refers to those who will "receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" at the Second Coming of the Lord (1 Pet. 5:4). The "holy nation" is of course the covenant nation of Israel. And the term "peculiar people" should probably be translated "redeemed people" (the original Greek word peripoeisis, here translated peculiar, actually means "purchased").