FIRST PETER: THE THEOLOGICAL SETTING
For those of us who are Bible believers, who recognize and cherish the love of God for us, as it is so well presented in John 3:16, and in the promises of eternal life in a restored earth in passages like Isa 65 and Rev 21, 22, the idea that the Bible teaches information regarding the now-nature of man, and whether or not he or she has a soul, and what might or might not be happening to “it” is often relegated to the world of non-believer’s philosophy—or is assigned to those ‘bright people’s talk’ which none of “us” can understand. After all it is enough for us to know in our hearts that God loves us. We do recognize that we should tell our neighbors about the Sabbath and the second coming, but we never consider telling them about their soul, or what might be happening to it when they get drunk, or skip church, or commit adultery (i.e., scripture says that he who committeth adultery with a woman destroyeth his own soul, Prov 6:32)—and yet it is such concepts Mrs. White writes about very often, and which are Peter’s topic as he begins his first epistle, in the opinion of this writer.
Could it be that we will need to add to our faith-sharing topics (topics such as God’s love for people, Jesus’ sacrifice in our behalf, the comfort and counsel of the Holy Spirit, etc.), information to tell people in regard to their soul? Can we know if man has a soul, or, what, for example, happened to my soul today? Does my soul’s experience today, if I have one, have anything to do with what resurrection I come up in? Could such concepts be Biblical?
The reason for these comments is that in Peter’s first epistle we are confronted with a subject we don’t find directly thrust upon us in our normal daily thought concepts. That subject is “the end of your faith, the salvation of (your) souls” (1 Pet 1:9).
Salvation is an easy concept—immortality, or, eternal life, with God.
Faith is also familiar, believing in God’s goodness to us even when goodness is not what we are surrounded by.
The end of faith is probably not so obvious, but yet not too difficult; it simply means the purpose, goal, or result of faith.
These concepts together express the thought that those who believe in God, who exercise faith, are to have eternal life, immortality, to spend with God as the result of their faith.
Such a teaching is very familiar and comfortable except that Peter, as we just read, does not stop there; he adds that salvation is the salvation of your soul (1:9). He also states that grace is to be multiplied to them, the readers, which includes us (1:2), and that the prophets wanted to know what it was they were prophesying about when they prophesied about the grace which was “for you” (1:10), and which would be brought when Jesus is revealed (1:13), which concepts even the angels long to look into (1:12). It is Peter’s attachment of faith and grace to the salvation of souls, which is to us Peter’s unusual concept.
Before we take up our study of First Peter we will try to focus the concepts Peter is setting before us as our great hope, and as the result of Christ’s death (1:11), by means of formulating those concepts into questions, such as, what is the soul that receives salvation- which salvation is the end, or goal, of our faith (1:9)?
Is the grace Peter speaks of a reality—something that has existence—when Peter says that grace is to be multiplied to us (1:2), and brought to us (1:13)?
According to Peter, is grace here to be connected with soul in such a way that a soul with grace has eternal life (salvation), while a soul without grace does not have eternal life (salvation)?
Would such a teaching, if these questions are to be answered with a yes, mean that Christians, for example, have a different condition after death than does the person whose soul has not received grace through the faith which brings salvation or guarantees immortality (remember verse 9)?
Is it possible that Peter is teaching us that the Christian has the potential, through faith, to have his soul take on the elements of eternal life? Could this be what Jesus meant when He said some people never die (John 11:26)?
To start to answer these questions we will look briefly at some Spirit of Prophecy material regarding our terms from Peter; soul, and grace.
We will then take our findings to our study of Peter to ask if he is presenting the same concepts we have found in the Spirit of Prophecy material we have reviewed when E. G. White speaks of soul and grace.
I think it is obvious already that our study of Peter won’t be boring!
Now let’s turn to a survey of the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the words soul and grace, and the relation between these two concepts. Please read the material carefully because we will next ask, are Mrs. White’s materials presenting concepts Peter is addressing? To find the answer we will of course study Peter’s epistle.
A Brief Survey
The following quotations may sound strange, because Mrs. White’s materials contain a nature of man concept that is original in the world of academic theology. In the Spirit of Prophecy doctrine of man we have a developed system of thought that no other writer in the world has. Enjoy your study! Prepare to be comforted. Here as in perhaps no other doctrine, the kindness of God’s plan for people born after the fall, shines!
Notice the following points as illustrative of Mrs. White’s statements.
- In the Spirit of Prophecy materials man was created with both a soul and a body. “Adam was a noble being, with a powerful mind, a will in harmony with the will of God, and affections that centered upon heaven. He possessed a body heir to no disease, and a soul bearing the impress of Deity” (The Youth’s Instructor Articles (March 5, 1903), p. 562).
Again we read, “Every individual has a soul to save or to lose,…” (The Great Controversy, p.488).
- Sin brings death to the soul.
“If to save the body from death, the foot or the hand should be cut off, or even the eye plucked out, how much more earnest should the Christian be to put away sin, which brings death to the soul” (The Acts of the Apostles, p 313).
“…Satan’s false standard,…if followed, will lead to…death for both body and soul” (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 137).
- With a soul that is not functioning properly man cannot serve God.
“By sin we have been severed from the life of God. Our souls are palsied. Of ourselves we are no more capable of living a holy life than was the impotent man capable of walking” (The Desire of Ages, p. 203).
- The soul is that which Christ and Satan contend for.
“It is the Son of God combating the prince of darkness; and the prize for which they contend is the soul of man” (Signs of the Times. Vol. 2, p. 85).
“God gave His only begotten Son for the body as well as the soul, and our entire life belongs to God,. . . (The Youth’s Instructor, p. 145).
- The ceremonial law taught the necessity of soul cleansing.
“A soul corrupted by sin is represented by the figure of a dead body in a state of putrefaction. All the washings and sprinklings enjoined in the ceremonial law were lessons in parables teaching the necessity of a work of regeneration in the inward heart for the purification of the soul dead in trespasses and sins…” (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. vol. 4, p. 1176).
- Satan cannot hold in spiritual death one soul who in faith receives Christ’s word of power.
“Satan cannot hold the dead in his grasp when the Son of God bids them live. He cannot hold in Spiritual death one soul who in faith receives Christ’s word of power. God is saying to all who are dead in sin ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.’ Eph 5:14. That word is eternal life. . . . That word, ‘Arise from the dead,’ is life to the soul that receives it. …It is all offered to us in His word. If we receive the word, we have the deliverance” (The Desire of Ages, p. 320).
- The Word gives immortal vigor to the soul.
“Those who eat and digest this Word, making it a part of every action and of every attribute of character, grow strong in the strength of God. It gives immortal vigor to the soul, perfecting the experience, and bringing joys that will abide forever” (The Faith I Live By. p. 22).
- Christ will give life to dead souls.
“…Christ is able and longs to deliver. He will impart life to the soul that is ‘dead in trespasses.’ Eph 2:1” (The Desire of Ages, p. 203).
- The entire being must be brought into subjection to God.
“The entire being, body, soul, and spirit, must be brought into subjection to God,…” (The Youth’s Instructor. Nov. 8, 1900, p. 486).
- The soul and the body of man are distinguishable.
“Christ healed the man, both soul and body,…” (The Youth’s Instructor Articles. Sept. 11, 1898, p. 369). “A healthy soul in a healthy body makes a man or woman more precious than silver or gold,…” (Pacific Union Recorder Articles, p. 1).
- “The Spirit of God, received into the soul, quickens all its faculties” (Gospel Workers, p. 285).
- “When the soul has been cleansed, it is the duty of the Christian to keep it undefiled” (The Youth’s Instructor, p. 562).
- The soul, once dead in trespasses and sins, but healed by Christ and quickened in all its faculties by the Spirit of God, is capable of participating in immortality.
“Yes, the Word of God is the bread of life, eat of it daily. It will infuse immortal vigor into your soul,…” (Pacific Union Recorder Articles, p. 164).
“The soul that God has created and Christ has redeemed is of great value because of the possibilities before it, the spiritual advantages that have been granted it, the capabilities that it may possess if vitalized by the word of God, and the immortality it may gain through the hope presented in the gospel” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 370).
NOTE also The Faith I Live Bv, p. 22: “It gives immortal vigor to the soul.”
- “If you do evil you injure and mar your own soul” (Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, vol. 3, p. 115).
- “When truth becomes an abiding principle in the life, the soul is ‘born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 520).
- Through the Holy Spirit the Lord infuses spiritual life into the soul.
“The Lord Jesus acts through the Holy Spirit; for it is His representative. Through it He infuses spiritual life into the soul, quickening its energies for good, cleansing it from moral defilement, and giving it a fitness for His kingdom” (Messages to Young People, p. 55).
- “It is the grace of God that gives life to the soul” (The Desire of Ages, p. 181).
- “It is the grace of God alone which can vitalize and refresh the soul” (Signs of the Times Articles, vol. 3, p. 54).
- “His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness. …” (The Faith I Live By, p. 96).
“The grace of God comes to the soul through the channel of living faith, and that faith it is in our power to exercise” (Messages to Young People, p. 72).
- The grace of God, which makes alive (quickens) the soul, has existence; it is as real as the air.
“In the matchless gift of His Son God has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the globe. All who choose to breathe this life-giving atmosphere will live and grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus” (Steps to Christ, p. 68).
- The fiercer the conflict, the greater the supply of grace.
“The fiercer the conflict, the greater the supply of grace to meet the need of the soul; and the very nature of the grace received will enlarge the capacity of the servant of Christ to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent” (The Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, vol. 3, p. 367).
- The word of God activates the life of God in the soul through ministering grace to the hearer.
“Who would dream of the possibilities of beauty in the rough brown bulb of the lily? But when the life of God hidden therein, unfolds at His call in the rain and the sunshine, men marvel at the vision of grace and loveliness. Even so will the life of God unfold in every human soul that will yield itself to the ministry of His grace, which, free as the rain and the sunshine, comes with its benediction to all. It is the word of God that creates the flowers, and the same word will produce in you the graces of His Spirit” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 97).
- “By His grace we are to be made perfect” (Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, vol. 2, p. 593).
- One application of grace is not enough; we must be growing.
“Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness—all depend upon our union with Christ. It is by communion with Him, daily, hourly,—by abiding in Him,—that we are to grow in grace” (Steps to Christ, p. 69).
- Additional results of Grace working in us.
“Through the provisions of divine grace we may attain almost to the excellency of the angels” (Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, vol. 1, p. 323).
“By his grace he will work upon the soul until it will be like a jewel polished for the heavenly kingdom” (The Youth’s Instructor, p. 223.
“The nature of the grace that he receives, enlarges his capacity to know God and His Son” (The Acts of the Apostles. p. 50).
“Man cannot conceive what he may be and what he may become. Through the grace of Christ he is capable of constant mental progress” (God’s Amazing Grace, p. 278).
“It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith that can make us holy” (The Faith I Live By p. 93).
“By the gentle touch of grace He banished from the soul unrest and doubt, changing enmity to love, and unbelief to confidence” (Ministry of Healing, p. 25).
- God’s goal, or desired conclusion to the work of grace in the soul.
“As the sunbeam imparts to the flowers their varied and delicate tints, so does God impart to the soul the beauty of His own character” (The Desire of Ages, p. 313).
“Christ abides in the soul of the believer” (Signs of the Times, vol. 2, p. 498).
- The grace that changes the soul and enables it to participate in immortality brings changes that last eternally. The soul is unharmed though the body dies for Christ.
“When He suffers death for Christ’s sake, the Savior says to him, they may kill the body, but they cannot hurt the soul” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 85).
- Christians have eternal life in them now.
“All believers who pass through a natural death, have, through eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God, eternal life in them, …” (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 926).
- A participant of grace is protected in death.
“The life giver will call up His purchased possession in the first resurrection, and until that triumphant hour, …every sleeping saint will be kept in safety and will be guarded as a precious jewel, who is known to God by name” (Sons and Daughters of God, p. 359).
- Grace keeps us from the slumber of death. Mrs. White writes that the Holy Spirit is ready to supply every soul with grace according to the capacity to receive. Next she adds,
“Then let us not be satisfied with only a little of this blessing, only that amount which will keep us from the slumber of death, but let us diligently seek for the abundance of the grace of God” (Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, vol. 2, p. 555).
- If we don’t make the proper preparations,
“ye lie down in the grave unsheltered,…” (Testimonies for the Church. vol. 1, p. 133).
- True followers of Christ come forth from the grave partly by the life within them.
“By the power of the Savior that dwelt in them while living and because they were partakers of the divine nature, they are brought forth from the dead” (Son and Daughters of God. p. 359).
- To conclude this survey of statements from the Spirit of Prophecy regarding soul and grace and death, we will quote an eschatological statement that is very fascinating. The exact message of this quotation is not real clear, but if it says what I think it says, it means that God’s people serve Him whenever He needs them—whether that is before death, or while they are still in their graves, or after the resurrection.
“When the defiance of God’s law is almost universal, …then will the voice be heard from the graves of the martyrs, …” (Pacific Union Recorder Articles, p. 336).
“Some ministers, when they find before them unbelievers who are prejudiced against our views upon the nonimmortality of the soul out of Christ, feel all stirred up to give a discourse on that very subject” (Evangelism, p. 248).
“A wide door to destruction is open to all those who believe in the immortality of the soul, and do not believe that Christ alone brings life and immortality to light” (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 156).
In the statements quoted above man is a three-part being; a being who possesses a soul that is dead in trespasses and sins until it is resurrected through the work of grace—a grace which is as real as the air, and that comes to us through the study of the Bible, the agency of the Holy Spirit, and the exercise of faith.
Under the work of grace man is capable of attaining almost to the excellency of the angels; he is capable of constant mental progress.
As he participates in grace his soul becomes a partaker of the elements of eternal life. Note:
“The living Christian will be filled with cheerfulness and peace, because he lives as seeing Him who is invisible; and those who seek Christ in his true character have within them the elements of everlasting life, because they are partakers of the divine nature, …” (Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, vol. 3, p. 117, col. 3.
This means that when he dies his soul is protected during death until the time when the eternal life in him enables him to hear the call of the Lifegiver and come up in the first resurrection—leaving the grave partly by the life within him as the result of his connection with Christ during his life.
We turn now to our study of First Peter.