Basic Facts from… 1 Peter (Part 1)

Basic Facts from… 1 Peter (Part 1)

Peter’s brief letters are clearly intended to encourage and strengthen Christians who were facing the prospect of persecution for their faith in Jesus. A Jew from Capernaum in Galilee, Peter had been a fisherman before becoming one of Jesus’ first disciples, and was among His closest companions during the period of His earthly ministry. He was first directed to Jesus by his brother Andrew, and was the first of the apostles to openly confess his conviction that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 16:16). The gospel records show him as both bold and impetuous, and we see him in the book of Acts as one who has learned patience and understanding for others. First Peter is addressed to “sojourners” (ASV) scattered mainly across the area that is modern Turkey, and describes them as those who are “elect” (chosen) according to the Father’s foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:1-2). “Scattered” in verse 1 would be a term familiar to Jewish Christians (from the “scattering” or diaspora of the Jews across the Gentile world after Babylonian captivity), but in the context of Peter’s writing it almost certainly includes Gentile Christians as well, and the focus of his description is on the fact that Christians (Jewish and Gentile alike) are “strangers” in the current world, “journeying” toward our eternal home. This letter appears to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and is generally dated from about 62-68 A.D.

The “key” thought in 1 Peter is found in the word suffering, which appears in various forms about 21 times. Peter presents two distinct concepts of “Christian suffering” and points to Jesus as our example in both types (cf. John 19:1-30 and Hebrews 12:2). Without doubt, the typical modern image of suffering – experiencing some sort of pain or unpleasantness – is in view here, as Peter refers to the “manifold temptations” (1:6) these Christians were facing. Peter also uses this word to refer to the endurance or persistence they needed to exercise in focusing beyond their momentary trials and sorrows, to the “end” of their faith (salvation, 1:9).

Peter emphasizes in chapter 1:3-5 that because we are in Christ, Christians have an inheritance – a “property” that belongs to us. In contrast to everything we can possess in the present life, this inheritance cannot be damaged or stained and it will never “wear out.” Peter’s actual point here is NOT, however, the sterling qualities of this inheritance; it is the fact that it is “reserved” (taken care of, protected) in heaven for us if we are “guarded” by God’s power through our faith (vs. 5).

In verses 9-12 Peter notes that Christians actually possess the very knowledge and understanding that the ancient (old testament) prophets sought to grasp. They had investigated and tried to figure out every detail they could about the Christ (vs. 11) of Whom they were prophesying, even as the Holy Spirit let them know that their words were meant to benefit generations they would not live to see (vs. 12). With the coming of Jesus and the revealing of the gospel, all Christians can (and should) now understand what God’s purpose has been throughout history – to make it possible for fallen humanity to be forgiven for sinning and to live with hope in this world, realizing that He has made it possible for us to live with Him in eternity!


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