New Testament Week 46-47: “Preached unto the Spirits in Prison” – James, 1-2 Peter

This week I am going to outline the studies for both The Book of James and the first two Books of Peter. These three books comprise some very important doctrinal and testimonial truths about Jesus Christ and the gospel. The foremost being the possibility of salvation for people who died without knowing Jesus Christ in their mortal life. This idea is not commonly held among Christians in our time, but Peter teaches about it in his epistle.

It is also important to note that James, or Jacob, was the brother of Jesus Christ and Peter was his closest friend. They represent two people who might have been closer to Jesus than any other authors, save John, in the New Testament. I think this adds some gravity to their words and there is so much to learn from very few chapters.

CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 46-47 – James, 1 & 2 Peter

– Faith and Good Works are tied together and enhance each other.

– When we pray with true hearts and meaning the Lord will hear our prayers.

– Jesus went to the spirit world after his death and taught those who died without knowing of him. This means all people can learn of Jesus and have the chance to be saved.

Context and Timeline:
– James is the same as Jacob in Hebrew.

– Diaspora is a term that means all living away from Judea and Galilee.

– James has many references to the Sermon on the Mount and would have been very familiar with its teachings, and since Matthew was not written for decades it is likely the knowledge could have been first or second hand.

– Greek does not make a huge distinction between trial and temptation, which is the source of a lot of confusion about God tempting people.

– Dead means no power to save in the context of Faith and Works and some manuscripts replace dead with useless.

– Teachers have a greater responsibility as the conduit for teaching others.

– Brothers is more accurately brothers and sisters.

– New birth would likely have been referencing baptism into the new Christian faith.

– Priesthood being referred to in 1 Peter 3 is the Levitical priesthood and ordinances and sacrifices of the early temple.

– Peter testifies in 2 Peter 1 that Jesus is deity and that is of high importance as this would have been circulated in many places.

– Call and Election in 2 Peter means accepted the call to Christ and elevated to the election of a Christian life in our behavior

– Balaam is an Old Testament story.

– A thousand years being like one day to the Lord is a symbol for the timelessness of God not a scientific measurement.

History around Epistle:
Book of James – the author of James is either James, the brother of Jesus, or James, the brother of John. Most scholars and historians agree that the author is James, the brother of Jesus. James is actually translated as Jacob, and this James was not a disciple of Jesus Christ while Jesus was alive. In fact, James was among the group who criticized Jesus in his hometown. Later, after he was resurrected, Jesus visited James. After this conversion, James became one of the most influential Jewish Christians in Judea. He was the one who tried to help Paul before Paul’s arrest and was instrumental in getting Jews to accept Gentiles into the faith. The Book of James is also likely the earliest written documents in the New Testament maybe even as early as 45 AD.

1 & 2 Peter – the two books written by Peter were likely written before 68 AD, when Peter was crucified by Nero. Most people do not believe Peter actually wrote the letters, he knew little Greek and was uneducated, but many believe that he likely used a scribe to write his own words. Both books have a wide audience and his purpose is to witness of the resurrected Lord.

Doctrinal Teachings:

  • Faith Without Works is Dead (James 1-2)
    • Tests of faith are not bad, but good as they increase our faith and endurance.
      • They bring us to a place where we should ask God, who gives all wisdom, without doubt that an answer will come, and it will.
    • Good and Bad things happen regardless of being rich, poor, good, or evil.
    • Enduring trials are what prove and refine us into the best versions of ourselves.
    • Avoid anger and wrath and instead listen and our faith will be strengthened together.
    • Faith without doing good things with it is useless. The point of faith is to change our actions over time. That does not mean we cannot be saved, but it does make our faith useless.
  • Advice From and Apostle (James 3-5)
    • Our words matter:
      • Small words can cause people to lose faith, or hope
      • Small words can put us on destructive paths
      • Small words can damage relationships forever
      • Small words can let evil bridle our thoughts or let Jesus save our souls.
    • Wisdom comes from: understanding, humility, peacemaking, open minded, full of mercy, good fruits, impartial, and sincerity.
    • Friendship with worldly things separates us from God – intellectual pride, lust, greed, and power.
    • Do not gossip or judge or condemn others.
    • Avoid boasting and loving money.
    • Patience and honesty are very important.
    • Confess our faults to each other and pray for each other to be healed.
  • Trials of Faith Make us Holy (1 Peter 1-2)
    • Jesus Christ is also God.
    • We will all be tested in our faith that Jesus Christ was resurrected.
    • It requires diligence to receive revelation and it requires the grace of Jesus Christ for salvation.
    • If we receive the testimony, then we should seek to purify our lives and our efforts combined with the tests of our faith and grace of Christ will make us holy.
    • The priesthood is meant to serve and help people become holy.
  • Suffering is Rewarded with Glory (1 Peter 3-5)
    • Our situations, including our marriages, are meant to bring suffering. Suffering causes us to react and to look for solutions and the solution is Christ and His gospel.
    • All people suffer and even those who have already died. Jesus Christ suffered for us all including those who have died or will die.
    • Jesus Christ went to the spirit prison to bring the gospel to the dead so they could be saved from spiritual suffering.
  • Peter’s Testimony and the Second Coming (2 Peter 1-3)
    • Peter is going to die soon, and he wants the whole world to know that he knows Jesus Christ is the risen Lord.
    • Jesus’s resurrection is not a myth it is something he experienced with his own eyes and faculties.
    • False Prophets and Teachers will do a great job at leading people away by appealing to their intellectual pride and sophistication.
    • They promise freedom but they only provide corruption and pain.
    • The Lord will come again, we do not know when, but it will come when we least expect it and it will come just as God promised. Time is nothing to the Lord so it could come soon or long, but it will come.

Key Moment or Scripture: 1 Peter 3:18-20, 1 Peter 4:6
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

I have always bristled at the idea that Christianity teaches only those who have learned and accepted Jesus Christ while they were alive can be saved by Christ. I have two reasons for this: 1) This limits God’s ability to save His children which is ridiculous. 2) 70 Billion people have lived and maybe 3 Billion have heard of Christ.

These scriptures along with modern revelation teach us that those who have died can be taught the gospel and can be saved by Jesus Christ. It is that simple and that amazing.

Final Thoughts:
I didn’t get a ton of time to talk about it, but the section in 2 Peter 2 is worth reading. It describes so well those who seek to tear down the gospel, faith, or any spiritual belief. I know so many people who have been tested and convinced that God is not real by an appeal to intellectual pride and moral superiority. I know that the Lord loves us all and wants us to focus on faith and love to find our spiritual knowledge.