Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Good Conduct, Good Deeds, Good Works (part 12)

Some would look at this as the Gospels simply putting into Jesus’ mouth that which the early church leaders desired to hear Jesus saying, so as to provide back-up to their positions and a legitimization of their authority.  However, because what Peter is insisting upon flies in the face of basic social code and of predominant Jewish sensibilities in an era of nearly constant revolutionary activity, it most certainly must go back to the lips of one that put such activity on display in willingly going to the cross, with the power of the Resurrection later serving to back-up the words that would serve to inspire actions (by the Spirit, as through such responses it is being declared that Jesus is Lord---that the Creator God rules in and through His Christ) that would transform the world. 

Beyond that, Peter insists that the focus be on blessing others---good deeds/public benefaction again---because of the blessing that was being inherited.  Does Peter here speak of heaven?  In the sense that it was the role of the covenant people of the Creator God, in participation with the Creator God by His Spirit (which is the means by which a person is able to confess that Jesus is Lord) to bring heaven to earth (the Creator God’s will being done on earth as in heaven), yes, that’s exactly what it means. 

However, it goes further than that, in that any mention of blessing automatically reverts to the concept of the Abrahamic covenant and its promise to bless Abraham for the purpose of exemplifying divine blessing, as part of the Creator God’s plan to set the world to rights (to restore it from its fallen condition, to provide justification).  Consequently then, calling attention to the Abrahamic covenant calls to mind the worldwide body of Abraham’s children coming together for the great eschatological (end times=the time of the Creator God’s rule which began with Jesus’ Resurrection) feast that would mark the covenant God’s rule. 

So, once again, this study has landed on the power and importance of the Christian meal table, as it becomes increasingly clear that it is something of a social and cultural phenomenon that cannot be ignored in an interpretation of Scripture, whether that interpretation is spoken, written, or lived.      

With that point sufficiently made, this study can continue on to the fourth chapter of this first letter of Peter.  Maintaining a position at the table of fellowship and hearing these words along with their original hearers from within the context provided by the meal culture of the ancient world and the meal culture of the church, one must continue to interpret their meaning accordingly.  Therefore, it is possible to make the intended application when hearing “For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire” (4:3a). 

What are those things?  In relation to the practices and customs of the banqueting tables of the ancient world and to what has been learned about them, Peter adds “You lived then in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and wanton idolatries” (4:3b), all of which would feature prominently in feasts and celebrations, as honor and exploitation of position was a primary pursuit. 

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