Christians just don’t fit in, and that’s not easy for the first-century church. Christians are suffering all over the world (1 Pe 5:1), and the Christians in modern-day Turkey need to know why. They need to know how to deal with it. They need to know how to live.
And they need to know it’s not it vain.
The apostle Peter writes these Christians a letter to address these issues in two ways:
- Testify the truth. The more they know about Jesus, themselves, and the world, the better they’ll understand their difficult situation.
- Exhort them to live accordingly.
The book reflects this focus. Peter explores a piece of doctrine, and then encourages the Christians to apply it to their lives. He makes four of these back-and-forth cycles:
- Peter begins his letter by calling Christians “aliens,” or residential foreigners to the Roman Empire (1 Pe 1:1, 17). He then goes on to explain the relationship between suffering and salvation: suffering lasts now, but it proves our faith so that joy and glory can come later.
Therefore, Christians should be holy, or set apart (1 Pe 1:14). They should love one another and long for the word of God.
- After explaining why Christians are different, Peter goes into what the Christian family is: a spiritual house, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession (1 Pe 2:5, 9).
Therefore, Christians ought to keep their behavior excellent, so that even their oppressors will glorify God. They should submit to authorities, submit to one another, honor their spouses, and demonstrate kindness—even when they’re suffering as Christians.
- And who set the finest example of suffering to glorify God? Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the Christians should live for the will of God and use their spiritual gifts to serve one another and glorify God.
- And as if these folks had any more questions about suffering, Peter goes into it one more time. Suffering tests us. It’s a way that we identify with Christ. And it never gives us an excuse to sin—the suffering Christian will still do what is right (1 Pe 4:19).
Therefore, church leaders should set a good example, and all Christians should humble themselves under God, standing firm as they look forward to Jesus’ return.
To Peter, suffering is something the Christian should always see coming. We’re foreigners here, and we shouldn’t expect to be treated differently until our King claims dominion forever and ever (1 Pe 5:10–11).
Theme verse of 1 Peter
If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Pe 4:16)
1 Peter’s role in the Bible
No other book of the Bible focuses on suffering and glory as much as First Peter. This epistle was written to give Christians a fuller understanding of what’s going on: the present sufferings and the glories to come.
First Peter is the second of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences across the Roman Empire.
This letter from Peter focuses on the sufferings and glory of Christ and His church. While Paul briefly explores Christian suffering with the Thessalonian church, Peter writes a whole letter on the issue. To Peter, Christian suffering isn’t just something to put up with—it’s something to expect.
Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you (1 Pe 4:12).
No suffering is enjoyable, but Peter actually calls it a blessing. Here’s a list of reasons why he sees it this way:
- When we suffer as Christians, we identify with Jesus (1 Pe 4:1, 13).
- After we share in His hardship, we will share in our King’s glory (1 Pe 5:10).
- Suffering is an opportunity to prove our faith (1 Pe 1:6–7).
- It’s an opportunity to do what is right—even when we are wronged (1 Pe 2:20).
- Christ set an example of suffering for us to follow (1 Pe 2:21).
- The way we deal with persecution will bring our persecutors to glorify God (1 Pe 2:12).
- When we do what is right no matter what the circumstances, God is pleased (1 Pe 2:20)
And if anyone’s an expert on this, it’s Peter. He saw Christ suffer with his own eyes (1 Pe 5:1). He knew from early on that he would be martyred for Christ’s sake (Jn 21:18–19). And he’d caught a glimpse of the glory to follow (2 Pe 1:16–18; Mk 9:2–3).
This book was likely written in the early 60s, and the second book attributed to Peter was probably written a few years later.
Quick outline of 1 Peter
- Suffering proves salvation (1 Pet 1:1-12)
- Be holy (1 Pet 1:13–21)
- Love one another (1 Pet 1:22–25)
- Long for the word (1 Pet 2:1–3)
- We are a holy people (1 Pet 2:4–11)
Therefore, pursue excellent behavior:
- Toward authority (1 Pet 2:11–25)
- Toward spouses (1 Pet 3:1–7)
- Toward all (1 Pet 3:8–12)
- Christ suffered for us (1 Pet 3:13–22)
- Live for the will of God (1 Pet 4:1–6)
- Exercise spiritual gifts (1 Pet 4:7–11)
- Suffering tests us (1 Pet 4:12–19)
- Elders should guard the flock (1 Pet 5:1–5)
- Humble yourselves under God (1 Pet 5:6–7)
- Stand firm (1 Pet 5:8–14)