To get back to my writing I thought I would go through the book of 1 Peter. There are five chapters in this book so it shouldn’t be too hard to read especially if we go through it a few verses at a time. In this post I will give a little introduction and then go through the first twelve verses.
At the time that Peter wrote this letter (between AD 60-65) the readers were very discouraged and confused by the persecution that they had been enduring because of their faith in Jesus. Peter was encouraging them to stand strong and reminding them that through the persecution and trials to continue to remember Christ’s example and to continue in their hope they had in His return. Peter was called the “apostle of hope” and his primary message was to trust the Lord, and no matter what the circumstances live obediently and to keep your hope fixed on God’s ultimate promise of deliverance.
1 Peter follows the structure of ancient letter writing. It starts with a greeting (1 Peter 1-2), followed by thanksgiving (1 Peter 3-12), then he goes into the body of the letter where he discusses the main points (1 Peter 13-5:11), and he ends with a benediction (1 Peter 5:12-14). You will also notice that he identifies himself as being the author of the letter and identifies the authoritative status of the letter, as well as writing who the recipients are and the common bond that unites both he and the recipients.
In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter identifies himself as the writer as well as telling us who he is. He is “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” In Matthew 4:18-22 we read about Peter being one of the disciples that Jesus called, because of that calling and because he was one of the twelve he was also an apostle. The word apostle means, one who is sent out and Peter along with the other eleven were the first messengers of the gospel that were sent out after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter also cites his apostleship to establish that his letter is authoritative and should not only be received as such, but also be circulated.
In the first verse we also see that Peter was writing to the chosen or the elect. In the Hebrew Bible it was the nation of Israel that is shown to be God’ chosen or elect people. (Deuteronomy 4:37; Isaiah 45:4) In the New Testament we see this expanded to include the church, which would be both Jew and Gentile. Peter was known as the apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:7-8), but one of the churches he writes about in the beginning is to Asia (Asia Minor) which probably had mostly Gentile believers.
He is writing to those who are “elect exiles of the Dispersion.” Dispersion originally described Jews or Jewish communities that were scattered throughout the world outside of Israel. They were dispersed or scattered out to other Gentile countries. Here in 1 Peter we see it in the context that he is meaning both Jews and Gentile Christians who were scattered. The idea that Christians are strangers in the world is the main concept in Peter’s letter. In 1 Peter 1:1, and 1 Peter 1:17 he calls his readers “strangers or foreigners” in 1 Peter 2:11 he calls them “aliens and strangers.” We as Christians are this way, we are temporary residents here. We are born into a new homeland, we have been born into a living hope and a new inheritance. (1 Peter 1:3-4) We do not become citizens of a new homeland by being good people or applying, we do this by being born again, being a new creation in Christ.
In 1 Peter 1:3-12 most English Bible versions put punctuation marks in the writing. However in the original Greek it is one continuous sentence. This is a mar of a skillful orator in antiquity. In these verses Peter also expresses gratitude to God for his salvation that is through the person and the work of Jesus Christ. This section can further be broken up into 3 main movements. 1 Peter 1:3-5 is the first movement. This focuses on the end time inheritance/salvation that belongs to believers. The second movement, 1 Peter 1:6-9 speaks on the future inheritance that gives them joy while they experience suffering and difficulties. The third movement is found in 1 Peter 1:10-12. This section says that they should praise God because they live in the age of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. The promises regarding the coming of Christ, in both His suffering and in His glory.
In 1 Peter 1:3 we read, “He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This concept of being “born again” or “born from above” refers to the new life that is only possible through the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a spiritual transformation, and a new birth whereby eternal life is given to the person who believes. This rebirth is accomplished by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and this serves as our hope, which we see in verse 4 is an inheritance. Our inheritance is of a lasting nature and here Peter emphasizes this lasting nature of an inheritance to bring comfort to his audience who were displaced and uncertain about their future. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Our inheritance is kept for us (1 Peter 1:4), and we are kept for our inheritance (1 Peter 1:5). We Christians can be sure and be certain that we will receive our inheritance.
1 Peter 1:6 says, “in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” Christians will receive their inheritance when Christ is revealed, but we will face trials and suffering during our brief present time we are here. Peter is telling them to stand firm in the midst of persecution. Peter is focusing on the joy and love that fills the life of the believer, even in the midst of persecution.
Many people today ask why they are going through some trials or persecution in this life. Why is it God’s plan for Christians to suffer? In verse 7 we see a reason for this. Suffering functions as a test for faith. It is a test for genuine faith, it is to see if the faith that you have is authentic. I think we all know people who have said they are Christians but when their faith is tested they are quick to run away. If the faith that we say we have is real and genuine faith, and we let our faith grow and flourish even in the midst of persecution we read that the end result will be “praise, honor and glory” when Jesus Christ returns. Those who truly believe will persist in their faith, they will continue to trust in God when difficulties and trials come. God will examine the life of each person in the final judgement.
Verse 7 ends with hope that encourages believers, that is the hope of the second coming of Christ. In verse 8 Peter writes, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.” The readers Peter was writing to never laid eyes on Jesus physically, just as we have not, but just as us they loved Him. In the midst of their suffering they are not miserable or angry, they are filled with love for Jesus. Believing is not based on seeing, in John 20:29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.” One day Christ will be seen by all, and until them our lives should be characterized by a hope that fills the present with love and of joy. We as Christians shape our lives around something we cannot see, and yes at times it is hard to explain and even Peter who knew Jesus knew it was a difficult thing to explain.
In 1 Peter 1:10-12 Peter suggests that the Old Testament prophets received revelation from the Spirit about the coming Messiah, but they could not fully comprehend it. They were told that the prophecies of a coming Messiah were for a future time and for a future people. There is a link between verse 9 and verse 10, and that link is the term salvation. The salvation that believers experience now was also prophesied of in the past. It says that the prophets “searched and inquired carefully.” These prophets did not just merely prophecy about salvation, they investigated it carefully. In these verses Peter continues to emphasize that the Old Testament prophets did not live in the days of fulfillment, but had a predictive ministry. Their prophecies were inspired by the “Spirit of Christ” (v.11) which refers to the Holy Spirit. Peter stresses the continuation of the Spirits role in revealing God’s plan. It is the same Spirit of Christ that spoke to the prophets about Christ that helped reveal the gospel to all believers. (v. 12) I can imagine that the Old Testament prophets longed to see and to experience that of which they prophesied, but we see that God revealed to them that their prophecy would be that of a foretelling nature and would not be realized in their day. We as believers are so very incredibly blessed to have the promise of salvation that is found in Jesus Christ.