God’s Grace & Submission, part 2

Slaves are frequently mentioned in epistles (1 Corinthians 7.21-23; Ephesians 6.5-8; Colossians 3.22; 1 Timothy 6.1-2; Titus 2.9; Philemon). This seems to indicate that many of those who comprised the first century church were in a condition of servitude or were owners of slaves. In this section (2.18-25), Peter focuses exclusively on “household servants” to encourage those who perhaps needed the most encouragement to live godly lives while facing difficult circumstances.

Submission as Slaves (2.18-25)

18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

Servants: Gk oiketai, household servants. No comparable institution exists in modern Western society so it is difficult to accurately translate this word. However, “semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom” comes closest (Grudem 124).

Be subject…all respect: cf. v. 13. Present tense indicates these Christians slaves were to continue to submit themselves to their masters “with all fear” (NKJV). Fear (Gk phobo) is to be directed toward God, therefore, this is “for the Lord’s sake” (v.13), not out of fear of their masters.

Not only…the unjust: Generally speaking, slave (both in the house & out) were treated good & gentle by their masters. They were trained to perform important domestic, business, & public tasks. Doctors, teachers, musicians, & managers were slaves. Rome had passed much legislation protecting the 60 million slaves within her boarders. However, there was abuse by “harsh” (NIV) masters who lived in “pampered idleness” (Barclay 249). Some slaves were mistreated, denied pay, kept in awful conditions, etc. Even to these masters Christians slaves submit.

Submission to “unreasonable” (NASB) & “perverse” (NET) masters by Christian slaves is perhaps the most difficult instruction in 1 Peter. Obedience to harsh masters must have been somewhat deflating & disappointing to the Christian slave who had come to a Christian worldview where all men are equal in God’s sight. Of course, like with the government, submission of slaves had limitations; if a master ordered a slave to do something against the will of God, the slave should refuse in order to obey a higher authority. Nevertheless, short of sin, the slave was to submit & obey even dishonest & crooked masters in all things out of respect & fear of God.

19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

For this is a gracious thing: For signals that Peter is going to explain the reason for the radical submission of v.18. God looks with favor upon those who suffer unjustly while trusting Him.

When…suffering unjustly: The slave is mindful of God, that is, God’s will & presence, even his/her duty toward God. God approves of this because the slave chooses God’s authority over his own comfort & security, enduring sorrows & suffering unjustly (or wrongfully) for His will. Both the physical pain & mental anguish are in view here.

The Christian is to have a “trusting awareness of God’s presence & never-failing care” as they endure suffering, esp. when we suffer for doing the right thing, i.e. God’s will. Our faith is rooted in the knowledge that one day God will right all wrongs & vindicate the patient endurance of the Christian. This is what enables Christians to submit to injustice without bitterness and despair. It will also enable us to avoid improper responses like rebellion, revolt, hateful rhetoric, or misplaced fear.

20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

For what…you endure?: A rhetorical question—there is no honor in the patient endurance of rightfully deserved punishment for wrongdoing.  Many who sin and do wrong expect some kind of punishment should they get caught. That’s why they do all they can to avoid getting caught!

But if…sight of God: It could be that they did the right thing fro their master & still suffered for it; more likely this has to do with doing the right thing as a Christian when their master wanted them to do otherwise & they were knocked about being beaten with the fist. Doing the thing that pleases God & suffering for it will open new avenues of “grace from God.”

Peter gives two reason for patient endurance through unjust suffering: 1) God’s grace (18-19) & 2) Christ’s calling (20-25).

21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

For…been called: cf. 1 Thess 3.3. Christians are destined for wrongful affliction. Why? Because unjust suffering is at the heart of Christianity in the model of Christ whom Christians are to imitate. This is the example Peter focuses on for Christian slaves who serve unjust masters, even the servant of YHWH. His is the supreme of unjust suffering by the hands whom He came to serve.

Because Christ…in His steps: Christ’s example is proof positive that God looks with favor upon those who patiently endure through unjust suffering. Of course His example is even greater because it was for you (Gk uper umon, lit. on behalf of all you). Nevertheless, Christ also suffered for you even as now you suffer for Him. Christian slaves follow in His steps when they endure unjust suffering from their masters.

NOTE: While Peter is focused on Christian slaves, the instruction can certainly apply to every Christian. Christ is our example (Gk hupogrammon) over which our lives to be placed & traced.

22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

He committed no sin: cf. Isa 53.9. Never once did Christ sin, a fact of the gospel strongly attested in the New Testament (2 Cor 5.21; Heb 4.15; 1 John 3.5) & earlier in 1 Peter (1.19). He was the sinless servant of YHWH (see Isa 52.13). He is distinct from believers in this & because of His sinlessness is able to be our vicarious sacrifice.

Neither was…His mouth: Deceit is something Christians are to put away (v.1). Here is why: Christ. “If Jesus as the servant of the Lord did not sin or use guile, despite suffering intensely as the righteous one, then believers should follows His example and refrain from sinning or using deceit when they are mistreated as Christ’s disciples” (NAC).

23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

When…in return: A possible allusion to Isa 53.7. Jesus the “lamb without blemish” “led to the slaughter…opened not His mouth.” Though He was slandered & insulted He did not hurl invective back. He remained silent. Even those times during His ministry when He did defend Himself it was all spoken out of deep love for those who opposed Him.

When…threaten: It seems slaves were of a mind to be “argumentative” (Titus 2.9) & invoke divine retribution when caused to suffer. But not even Christ did this, choosing rather when the pain the worst to say “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).

But…Him who judges justly: Peter has already spoken of God as the just judge (1.17). Himself is supplied in most English translations & appears to be correct given what Peter says in 4.19 (“those who suffer…entrust their souls” to God). At the same time, the imperfect tense & His example from the cross seem to indicate that every dimension of His life was entrusted to God by Christ.

Our natural response when someone has injured us or hurt us to even the score by hurting them back &, if possible, hurt them more. If we can’t get even right away, we may threaten with violence later. “I’m gonna get you!” Or if they’ve hurt & we know there is no way we can get a hand on them, we might threaten divine retribution – “God will get you for this!” But these are natural responses for natural people. Instead, we believe in a God who is in control of everything & we follow the example left by Christ who “kept on entrusting” not just Himself but also His followers and even the wrongdoers and the entire situation “to Him who judges justly.” The imperfect tense indicates this was the regular practice of Jesus throughout His ministry. His attitude was one of faith in the just, fair Father of us all.

At the same time, we as believers trusting in the just Judge know that God will vindicate & reward us while judging & punishing our enemies (see Romans 12.19-20). In fact, it is because we leave justice in the hands of the righteous Judge that we can live like Christ without engaging in or even threatening retaliation. Jeremiah is an OT example this very thing (Jer 11.18-23). “Let me see your vengeance upon them,” he says, “for to you have I committed my cause” (20b). So Jesus was God’s gentle lamb. And we too follow that gentle lamb example.

24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

He Himself…on the tree: cf. Isa 53.4, 5, 6, 11 (“borne our griefs…borne our iniquities”). Here is the vicarious nature of Christ’s atoning work—Him in our place for our sins. While Christians are to follow Christ’s example in suffering, we must also remember His suffering had this unique quality as the basis for our salvation. The Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This took place on the tree (Gk xylon), that is, the cross, Peter preferring “tree” to connect his audience to Deut 21.22-23 & the curse upon those hung on a tree for judicial punishment.

That we…righteousness: Here is the purpose for Christ bearing our sins—living to righteousness.  A new kind of life is the goal of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf & for our sins. This new life is marked by a cessation from sin which began at baptism (aorist).

By His wounds you have been healed: cf. Isa 53.5. By the wounds of Christ on the cross we have been healed of our moral wounds, i.e. sins. The punishment that was due us, that we deserved, Christ took upon Himself in the flesh to make us well.  Sin is the disease, Christ the Cure!

25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

For you were straying like sheep: Cf. Isa 53.6. For explains we deserved punishment for wandering. This was the past condition of these Christians, indeed, the condition of everyone before coming to salvation in Christ. We wondered off the path of righteousness & onto the way of sin.

But have now…your souls: Gk alla, strong contrast. But now our fortunes have changed because of Christ. We are no longer lost, wandering sheep. We have returned to our Shepherd and Overseer. In the Old Testament, YHWH is the Shepherd of the flock, i.e. Israel (Psalm 23.1; 80.1; Isaiah 40.10-11). In the New Testament, Christ is the Good Shepherd (Johhn 10.11) & the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5.4). Likewise, in the Old Testament, YHWH is seen as the Guardian (NASB) of His flock (see Ezekiel 34.11, where “seek them out” is translated episkepsomai). In the New Testament, Christ is the Overseer who “seeks out” His sheep. All of this is firm testimony that in Christ YHWH came near.

God’s Grace & Submission, Part 1

The earliest charge against Christians as social rabble-rousers was that they said “there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17.7). Therefore, Christians, it was alleged, are bad citizens, prone to disorderly conduct & disregard of civil authorities. No doubt the question of whether God’s people should obey their pagan rulers was a pressing one for Peter’s audience. It was especially pressing when they were spoken of as “evildoers” & persecuted. Peter has already said that Christian’s are to conduct themselves honorably (v.12) & he begins with honorable conduct before the state.

Submission to the State (2.13-17)

God’s will is that Christians submit to & honor governing authorities which are established by Him.

13Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,

Be subject…to every human institution: Submission & obedience to governing authorities is typical of ethical instructions found in the NT (cf. Romans 13.1-7; Titus 3.1).

For the Lord’s sake: This may be Peter’s way of echoing Paul’s “there is no authority except from God” (Rom 13.1). Contextually, the glorification of God through our submission to the authorities He put in place is the theological basis.

Whether…as supreme: The Roman emperor was the one who exercised continuous control over the empire and so was supreme. Considering the emperor at the time of Peter writing was Nero it seems this principle is binding even when rulers are neither Christian nor moral.

Peter addresses not only what Christians are to do related to governing authorities, but also gives the why: be subject (what) for the Lord’s sake (why). For Jesus’ sake is reason enough for Christians not to be anarchists or insurrectionists.

  1. Submit (13-14) – to governing authorities high & low
  2. Silence (15) – ignorant foolish people
  3. Serve (16-17) – everyone high & low

14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Or…do good: sent by him may be referring to the emperor in his authority establishing local governing bodies to keep the peace or may refer to God (i.e. Him, cf. Jn 19.11) & once again we have tones of Paul (see Rom 13.3-4). Their function in the various Roman provinces was to punish delinquents and to praise the virtuous.

While Christians certainly have obligations to the state motivated by our theology (“for the Lord’s sake”), the state likewise has obligations to the people. The state is supposed to punish evil-doers & praise do-gooders. Paul says of the emperor, “he does not bear the sword in vain” (Rom 13.4). No whatever that means, it certainly means that governing authorities are to be “an avenger who carries our God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (verse 4). Meanwhile, those with good conduct “receive his approval” (13.3).

Our society seems to have this all backward. Those pursuing a Christian ethic are punished while those engaged in behavior contrary to God’s will are applauded. Refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and you could face stiff penalties. Make the Bible your state book and it’s only a matter of time before you will hear about it. A Chicago church fired their music director who came out as homosexual and now they are facing litigation. Good is evil and evil is good & Caesar grins menacingly.

15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

For this is the will of God: God’s will for His people is that they submit in order to silence…

That…foolish people: Peter calls the Gentiles foolish not to denigrate their intelligence, but rather as an allusion to wisdom literature where the foolish one who does not fear God or walk in His ways & is thus morally debased (Psalm 53.1). The Gentiles ignorance springs from their irrational claims of Christians as evildoers. All of the ignorance & folly can be silence by Christians living morally upright & virtuous lives (i.e. doing good).

Here is our obligation to society at-large – live the life excellently. Live it so excellently that they are actually muzzled when they open their mouths to accuse us. People want to know what is God’s will for their life; here Peter spells it out explicitly. Do so much good that you shame to silence the stupid & silly accusations spoken by fools. This seems to be what Jesus did. There came a point where no one dared ask him any more questions (Matt 22.46). He was good & He silenced the ignorance of the foolish teachers of His day.

16Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

[Live] as…free: Live is supplied in most English versions, however, what Peter says here is a continuation of verse 13 & “be subject.” Christians are “called to freedom” (Gal 5.13) & at the same time, as Peter emphasizes, Christians are God’s slaves.

America is the land of the free. So we truly know what it means to live as free people. But this freedom cannot & must be used to justify moral evil. Some think that we are free to do whatever we want. “Free country,” scoffs the ner-do-well. But as social critic Os Guinness says, “Liberty requires restraint, but the only restraint consistent with liberty is self-restraint.” Said another way: Liberty requires virtue. Where does virtue come from? “Add to your faith virtue,” says Peter. Therefore, without faith we cannot have virtue; without virtue it is only a matter of time before we are without liberty.

Not using…evil: “Christians do not have freedom to do wrong” (Grudem 121).  “Genuine freedom liberates believers to do what is good” (Schreiner).

[Living] as servants of God: This is the inward motivation for the actions here commanded—Christians are God’s slaves. So Christians live under another King who wants us to submit to human rulers He has established.

17Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Honor everyone: Christians are to attribute high status & value to all people. Why? Though Peter does not specify, it seems best to understand that God created everyone in His image.

Love the brotherhood: Present tense so continue to love all Christians.

Fear God: Present tense so continue to render  reverential awe & respect to God (see Ecc 12.13).

Honor the emperor:  So the emperor is placed on equal footing with everyone.

We are inclined to honor the great & powerful. Those with money (Bill Gates), athletes with exceptional skill (Michael Jordan), the very intelligent (Stephen Hawking) – I think we look upon these people as having some position of honor. This seems particularly true in the political arena. For example, if you received an invitation to the White House, you would no doubt recognize that as a great honor. Whether you like the guy or not, you respect the office. Peter does something interesting – “honor everyone.” All people are worthy of our honor, not just the emperor. I don’t know that Peter drags the emperor down to the common man’s level so much as he elevates everyone to a position of honor. Every person is someone who was created by God in His image & therefore is worthy of honor.

Special Study: The Christian & Government

Peter’s admonition for Christian submission to governing authorities must be understood in light of the instances of civil disobedience found elsewhere in the NT. There are times when the apostles, with Peter as their spokesman, refused to comply with the orders of civil authorities because they were in opposition to the orders of God (see Acts 4.19-20; 5.29). These appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Submit to (good) government, unless they seek to force Christians to violate God’s will. Then obey God.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 3

Peter begins a new paragraph by shifting from the idea of newborn babies needing spiritual milk from the Lord to holy priests in a spiritual house rendering sacrifice to God. At the same time, this section belongs with all that has gone before concerning God’s grace & our salvation. Just as our hope is living (1.3) and the word of God is living (1.23), so we are “living stones” & Christ is the living Stone to Whom we come & are built into this spiritual house. Peter will quote from or allude to the Old Testament often to show how these Christians are God’s people.

Living Stones – Examples of God’s Grace (2.4-12)

Christians are living examples of God’s grace, & they glorify God in life & worship.

4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,

As you come to Him:  Lit. coming toward him (pres.). Not just when they were converted, but this is continually drawing near to Christ by continued faith in Him. The Christian must ever be drawing closer to Christ, every day; drawing near to His presence for sacrifice.

Coming to Christ is siding with God. At the same time, choosing Christ will mean rejection from “men,” that is, people in general. Jesus said as much: John 15.18, 20, 21. The reason they will reject us is because they first “rejected” Him. When He came, after He ascended, in the first century, throughout time since then, on to today, men still reject Him. They do not consider Him worthy to follow. But we do. We are those who are continually coming to Christ, ever drawing near to Him.

A living stone…chosen and precious:  cf. Acts 4.11. Jesus is a living stone because He is “Son of the Living God” (Mt 16.16).  Christ has life in Himself, inherently, & is the source of life. He is unlike other earthly rocks which are non-living; He lives & gives life. During His earthly ministry, during the lifetimes of the original audience, & even today Christ was & is rejected by men (perf.). However, Peter draws a contrast between the world’s view & God’s view of Christ. God esteems Christ as chosen and precious, that is, elect & highly valued. Rejected, chosen, & precious are all vocabulary from Psalm 118.22 & Isaiah 28.16, texts Peter will quote in the verses ahead.

It was almost as if Peter anticipated the Catholic fallacy that was yet to come which would make him the stone upon which Christ builds His church. Of course it was the Holy Spirit Who foreknew this and has Peter here a) deny his stone-ship while b) affirm Christ as chief cornerstone.

5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

You yourselves like living stones: Here is a thought which would have amazed these Christians—even they are living stones. Of course their union with Christ the Living Stone is why they are living stones. Like Christ, they are elect & highly valued to God.

Are being built…house: being built up is a passive verb because it is Christ who builds His church (see Mt 16.18). Christians “come to Him” (v.4); He builds us into a spiritual house. The present tense may indicate that the building is ongoing, i.e. Jesus continues to build His spiritual house by adding souls (living stones) to the structure & priests to His priesthood.

Christ is both the Builder & the Foundation (1 Cor 3.11). The building He builds is not material but spiritual; He does not use dead rocks, but living stones. Then the sacrifices offered in this temple are not physical (cattle & flocks), but spiritual (obedience & surrender). They are not offered by an elite priesthood with special access to God, but by all believers who are His holy priesthood. This is what the Jewish system anticipated; this is what pagan ritual grasped for. The substance & fulfillment is realized in Christ.

To be a holy priesthood: Christians are both the spiritual temple & the priests of the temple. All saints are priests unto God & all are to be engaged in their priestly duty, namely…

To offer…Jesus Christ: Like the priests of the Old Testament, Christians are to offer spiritual sacrifices. Peter does not specify exactly what the spiritual sacrifices are, though verse 9 (“that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him”) may be one. In one sense, everything Peter exhorts his readers to be & do could be seen as a spiritual sacrifice. These sacrifices bring pleasure to God since they are offered through Jesus Christ.

Temple, priest, sacrifices. In this single verse Peter highlights the superiority of the new covenant, contrasting the material temple & sacrifices with the spiritual & living house, priesthood, & sacrifices. “The New Testament church is the true spiritual house of God” (Lenski). We offer praise & thanksgiving for the grace poured out on us (see Hebrews 13.15). We offer our bodies for holy living (see Romans 12.1). We offer our contribution to God (see Philippians 4.18). We offer our prayers & petitions to God (see Revelation 8.3). We offer the gospel to lost humanity (see verse 9).

Once again it seems as though the Holy Spirit through Peter anticipates the error of Catholicism which says that only a few select people are priests. Rather, what Peter describes here is the universal priesthood of all believers. Every Christian is a selected priest precious to God and set apart to offer up sacrifices that are dominated by the influence of the Holy Spirit.

6For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

For it stands in Scripture: cf. 1.16, the Writings (Gk graphe), i.e. the Old Testament Scriptures were for the Peter the source of authority for Christian doctrine. Once more he appeals to the Scriptures, in this case Isaiah 28.16, a text early Jewish interpreters regarded as Messianic.

The Word of God continues to “stand” today. What stands in Scripture continues to be the source of authority for life & doctrine for the church of Christ.

“Behold…precious”: Peter quotes from the Septuagint (LXX) and omits a few unimportant words, his focus being the substance of the idea: the excellency of the Living Stone. Behold indicates this is an astonishing thing God is doing. I lay in Zion because this is where Christ suffered & died and also from whence the gospel was preached. Chosen and precious have already been used to describe Christ (see v.4). As a cornerstone Christ is the first stone laid by which the whole foundation is aligned and built around.

Lenski says the cornerstone “governs all the angles and all the lines of both the foundation and the building and is thus placed at the head of the corner.” So Christ governs everything about His church – all the actions & attitudes. He sets orthodoxy & orthopraxy.

“And whoever…shame”: Our trust, our faith is well-placed when put in Him. Thus, there is no disappointment or embarrassment, no disgrace or humiliation—no shame—for whoever puts their faith (believes) in Christ.

7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

So the honor…believe: Though these Christians were an oppressed minority, despised by society at-large, the honor is for you because of their faith. Whatever honor or preciousness the Stone has is for you who believe. His worth is their worth; His honor is theirs also. On the other hand…

But…not believe: For those who continue in rebellion and unbelief…

“The stone…the cornerstone”: Psalm 118.22. “The point of the quotation is to show that those who rejected Christ have been proved exactly wrong by God’s exaltation of him to the place of greatest prominence” (Grudem 105).

Consider a parable: The kingdom of God is like builders who were busily building a structure. The work was progressing nicely, moving along at rapid pace as the builders were busily at work. They desired a structure which would be the envy of the universe. So they worked fast and hard. Their work required many stones which they used without second thought. But they came upon a particular stone. This stone gave them pause and, after evaluating the stone, they deemed it unworthy of their building and cast it aside. As their work was nearing completion, the owner of the building came by late in the afternoon to see how the work was progressing. He found the workers busily building His building. When the owner inquired about the particular stone, the foremen said they had not used that stone because it was wholly unfit for the structure. The owner was furious and said, “That stone is precious to me for I chose it especially for this work.”  The owner ordered that their building be torn down brick by brick and that a new structure be built in its place with the precious stone He selected to be the cornerstone. Then the owner ordered these foremen to be cast out into the night where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

And “A stone…offense”: see Isaiah 8.14. Originally it was YHWH of Hosts who became “a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling.” Now Jesus is the stumbling stone & offensive rock, as well as a sanctuary for those who believe (see “honor” in v.7). This is an instance where Christians readily identified YHWH with Christ.

Here is still another example where the deity of Christ is affirmed by the NT writers, esp. those who lived with Him and were eyewitnesses of Him. Some today want to strip Christ of His Godhood (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc.). These refuse to believe Jesus is God, aligning themselves with “those who disobey” & therefore stumble over the Stone, themselves offended by the pure doctrine of the word. Let us hold fast the apostolic testimony that Jesus is the Christ, indeed YHWH of the OT come in the flesh.

They stumble…to do: Stumbling is a direct consequence of disobedience. So as they were destined to do speaks of the penalty for their disobedience (i.e. stumbling), not the disobedience itself. “They rebelled against God and paid the penalty” (Robertson). Those who disobey are held accountable.

What does it mean to stumble? Well, there is some obstacle in the way into which one runs, striking the foot or leg causing the trip and, typically, fall and usually with injury. If I had a dollar for every time I bashed my toe into something…Especially in the dark and you do not see the obstacle. In this case, the soul fails to believe; that is, the soul is wandering around in the dark, unilluminated by the Light of the world – Christ. This failure to believe does not enable them to see the capstone which for them is now the stumbling stone, the rock by which they are scandalized (Gk skandalon).

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

But you…race: But you indicates two things: 1) contrast (“but”) between the unbelieving Jews who a) rejected the chief Cornerstone & b) refuse to believe in Him and the Christians to whom Peter writes who have a) accepted Christ & b) believe in Him. 2) Emphasis – “you” (citizens) as opposed to them (unbelieving Jews outside the rule of God). These Christians have been chosen by God & are genetically (Gk genos) linked by the blood of Jesus (1.2, 19). Cf. Isa 43.20

A royal priesthood: The universal priesthood of Christians has already been mentioned (v.5). Now the idea is combined with the regal aspect due to our relation to the King of kings. Ex 19.6

Holy nation: Cf. Exodus 19.5-6. As Israel was a theocracy, so the church today is a sacred state.

People for His own possession: Exodus 19.5. The idea is that we have been purchased , even redeemed by the blood of Christ (1.19).

Peter’s contrast is stunning and sweeping: first, the church is contrasted with unbelievers who reject Christ, the Cornerstone, and continue in unbelief. But then Peter digs deeper and contrasts the church – New Israel – with the nation of Israel. He borrows copiously from Exodus 19.5-6 and the covenantal language therein contained to say that the church is now the covenanted people of God under the New Covenant forged in the blood of Jesus (“chosen race,” Gk genos eklekton). Israel was the shadow people; their covenant was real, make no mistake. But it has given way to a greater substance in Christ.

“Like the old people of God, the nation of Israel, the new people of God are a nation of people set apart for the service of God” (Black & Black 65). Indeed, our work, worship, and worth flow from being set apart by God to be this holy, royal kingdom of priests. “The purpose of the people of God is now explained. God has chosen them to be his people, established them as a royal priesthood, appointed them as a holy nation to be his special possession, so that they would ‘declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’”[1] The declaration of God’s praise includes both worship & evangelism – directing our hearts upward to Him for saving us & spreading the good news of His salvation outward to others.

That…His marvelous light: Cf. Isa 43.21. Here is the purpose—announcing the virtues of God. Darkness is “the futile ways inherited by your forefathers” (1.18) or rank heathenism. His marvelous light is the Christian manner of life patterned after the model of Christ. See Eph 5.8ff.

Our mission is singular but with different aspects: we are this elect, royal, holy, priestly nation that belongs to God so that we might continue the ministry of God’s people throughout all ages: declaring His praise. “Man’s chief & highest end is to glorify God,” says the Westminster Confession. We exclaim His excellencies; we vocalize His virtues; we proclaim His praise. This carries with it a celebratory aspect: we celebrate God for transferring us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son by His blood. Early church writers connected this verse with baptismal liturgy and for good reason – that is when we are called out & become the people of God.

10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Once…God’s people: Verse 10 is an allusion to Hosea’s sordid story (see Hosea 1.6-7, 9-10; 2.23). Once upon a time (i.e. before Christ) these people were not God’s people. Now they are!

Once…received mercy: They had never been shown mercy until God called them and they received mercy (aorist). Peter is pointing them to their conversion which ended their “no mercy.”

When a person obeys the gospel, they move from being in a “no mercy” state before God to knowing & experiencing the mercy of God. All at once their situation changes.

11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Beloved: Loved by Peter, because saved people love other saved people, & loved by God.

I urge you…the flesh: I (strongly) urge you is about as close as you can get to begging without infringing upon proper manners. Sojouners are those who have a residence in a foreign land but are not citizens of that territory; exiles are those who are just visiting for a time (see 1.17). Since “this is world is not my home,” keep on keeping your distance from the gross sins of the flesh.

Since our citizenship is in heaven, we are sojourners and strangers. We have a homeland which, though we have never seen, we long for. So as we live out the remainder of our exile on earth, we keep ever before us our distant country. We refuse to learn the practices of this strange land we are in. That was what ruined Israel – once they got into the land they learned the practices of those whom they were to drive out. Learn the lesson well: do not learn the practices of those citizens of this world because this world is not our home.

Which wage war against your soul: There’s a war going on for the souls of Christians. The present tense indicates this is ongoing & daily. These passions take no prisoners.

For a vivid depiction of the war between the flesh and the spirit see Galatians 5.16-24. However, it must be noted that though Christians have the Spirit of God in them, they are not exempt from fleshly desires. There is still a battle to fight every day against the flesh, the devil, & the world. That battle runs deep, even to “your soul.” The spiritual forces of darkness know exactly what buttons to push in order to tempt us. It could be lust. It could be anger. It could be greed. Peter has already listed several “lesser” sins (2.1). But these are just as devastating as the “big” sins.

12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Keep…honorable: The Christian’s “behavior” (NASB) as they live among the uncovenanted people of this world is to be honorable, that is, it should be of positive moral quality.

How should Christians live in this world? How can we be holy when in the midst of unbelievers? This is Peter’s thesis for this epistle. He’s taken his time to build up their identity in Christ; now he will get intensely practical and direct concerning how to be holy in an unholy world.

The world is watching closely our behavior. Long before they ever hear a sermon they are looking for one, looking at one in how we live our lives. Our conduct must be morally excellent, so much so that even those “evildoers” who have only a shade of moral sense left will recognize it as honorable.

So that…evildoers: Those doing evil gleefully speak in opposition to Christians.

They…day of visitation: To see is to look upon intently with careful consideration. So the Gentiles closely inspect the Christians’ good deeds in anticipation of the day of visitation wherein they will honor God. Theories of what the day of visitation abound: 1) the day of judgment; 2) some times of persecution; 3) destruction of Jerusalem; 4) some time when the gospel is preached to the Gentiles.

It is interesting to note that Peter does not call Christians to march on Rome & pursue political activism. He does not order Christians to take up arms & fight against a tyrannical government. The inspired apostle does not exhort Christians to defend themselves verbally or write religious tracts defending their moral positions. The Holy Spirit through Peter encourages these believers to pursue goodness & virtue in all simplicity in order that their transformed conduct would contradict the lies & slander from the hostile society.


[1] Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 2

Peter has focused his reader’s attention on their salvation & the grace which is theirs, spiritual treasures which prophets search intently for & angels strongly desire to see (3-12). With this firmly in mind, he will now exhort his readers to think & act in a holy manner.

Holy Living – By God’s Grace (1.13-2.3)

God’s grace enables Christians to a live a holy even under a hostile empire.

13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Therefore: Due to the greatness & glory of salvation explained in verse 3-12…

Preparing your minds for action: lit. “gird up the loins of your mind” (so NKJV), a phrase lost on most modern readers, but a common practice in ANE culture where long robes were worn. In order to engage in vigorous activity (running, fast walking, etc.), the robes would have to be pulled up into their belt allowing them freedom of motion. In modern English, we might say “roll up your sleeves.” Peter is telling his audience to get ready for intense mental activity (your minds).

I have been saying that the church needs to be a thinking & thoughtful community. Peter exhorts even us to prepare for intense mental activity. Even as Elijah “gathered up his garment” and outran Ahab’s chariot, so we too must roll up the sleeves of our minds so that we can outthink culture & society with the Truth. Even our Lord has said, “Stay dressed for action” or “Let your waist be girded” (NKJV) – it’s the same idea.

Being sober-minded:  Not merely by abstaining from alcohol, but also do not let your mind wander to other mental intoxicants & addictions.  Things that belong to “the futile ways” (v.18).

We must also be clear-headed, not intoxicated by the thoughts of the world. With 24-hour news, non-stop social media, open-letter, politics, sports, etc. Just as surely as alcohol will impair your judgment, so too will intoxicating worldly thoughts carry away our minds from soundness to paranoia, fear, anxiety, worry, depression, defeat, etc.

Set your hope…revelation of Jesus Christ: Peter combines both the now & not yet aspect of our grace. First, we hope fully on this grace, that is, we are to have a very strong confident expectation of grace at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We look forward to His return when grace will be fully realized. But also, the grace “is being brought” (present participle) to you. Grace is already on the way, indeed, “the immeasurable riches of His grace” are ours in Christ Jesus (Eph 2.7). Yet, there is still more to come at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

As obedient children: As points to their present actual character before God, namely, obedient children or lit. “children of obedience.” Formerly, these were “children of disobedience” (cf. Eph 5.6), but now they are those who seek to please their heavenly Father by their holy character.

Do not be…former ignorance: Conformed is used by Paul in Romans 12.2. Here, as there, an apostle is exhorting Christians to avoid the pattern or mold into which the world would press us. This is a lifestyle that the audience was familiar with since is was their former ignorance. They did not know God’s ways, but instead gratified their passions.

“Christians must live as God’s children and be obedient to their Father” (Black & Black 45). Before our conversion to Christ we were supremely selfish; now we seek to serve others because saved people serve people. Before our conversion we lived to gratify our own desires; now we seek to do what God desires and so please Him. Before Christ, while we may have regarded basic decencies of life and sought some measure of health or reputation, we still did not regard God’s will; now, without regard to our own reputation or health, we seek to uphold God’s will. Before conversion we conformed to the culture & opinions around us; now we seek to influence culture for Christ and destroy every lofty opinion set up against the knowledge of Christ.

“Now [Christians] are to be governed by a different rule, and their own former standard of morals and of opinions is no longer their guide, but the will of God.” (Barnes)

15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

But as He…is holy: But is strong contrast. Holiness is an inherent attribute of deity (see Ex 15.11; Isa 6.3). God is separate from, even other than, all that we know in His majesty & glory. Notice: holy God called Christians, i.e. He initiated salvation through the gospel (cf. 2.9, 21; 3.9; 5.10).

You also…all your conduct: Christians have been called to be holy. All your conduct captures every thought & action of every day. This is total holiness, inward & outward conformity to the pattern of holiness (i.e. God Himself). The impetus for our holy conduct is the holiness of God.

“What God asked of Israel when he made that people his own he now asks and must ask of us whom he has called by Jesus Christ.” (Lenski) We imitate His moral character, His holiness, which is the ultimate basis for ethics. God’s holy moral character is the reason there are moral absolutes. Why are certain things right and certain things wrong and they are always right or always wrong? Look no further than the holiness of God. He delights in those things which reflect His holiness (moral character) and hates that which is opposed to His holiness. See Psalm 15.

16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Since it is written: As is always the case, Scripture is the sole authority for doctrine & practice.

“You…I am holy”: Quote from Leviticus 11.44-45; 19.2; 20.7, 26. So both Testaments require holiness from God’s people & both ground this imperative in God’s holiness.

Since God is holy and we profess to be His followers, we must be holy. All that intense mental effort Peter just wrote about is to be devoted to holiness. A purging of the mind of all that is low, base, corrupt, wicked, & evil must take place. Even the heavens are not pure in His sight (Job 15.15)! Nevertheless, we flawed, fallen creatures of dust must roll up the sleeves of our minds, be self-controlled, & hope completely, perfectly upon His grace both now and forevermore. Eager, earnest effort is what is required of committed Christians. We are saints only if we pursue holiness with all that is within. And we do because we know “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14). It is not just the big sins which weigh down the soul so that we do not progress in holiness (murder, fornication, etc.). A thousand little one pound sins will just as surely crush the soul. Stop using the world’s goods on yourself alone (selfishness). Cease thinking evil about other people, esp. your brethren (malice). Put away the idolatry of worry and pride. Then cultivate Christ-like behaviors & attitudes: help others, love others, esp. the unlovable. Do good to people, esp. your enemies. Not only have you shed those things which God hates, you are allowing His holiness to be reflected in you. Herein is true religion: the imitation of Him we worship. Holiness is imitating God.

17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

And if…[work]: Or “and sincebecause this is a continuation of what Peter has been saying & no doubt these Christians do call the impartial judge of all Father. God called them to be obedient children, so they call Him Father. But He is also He Who judges (present part.) or more accurately “the one judging.” So in view is not final judgment (although this still applies, cf. 2 Cor 5.10), but the idea Peter expresses here is that God is presently weighing our actions & thoughts without prejudice or favoritism (lit. not receiving face). Our “work” summarizes all our actions & thoughts.

Conduct…your exile: Since God is an ever-present judge who weighs the heart, since we live in His presence and He knows our personal “work,” reverential awe & respect (fear) is the appropriate response during our earthly lives (i.e. the time of our exile).

Is our work holy unto God? Most people jump immediately to the final judgment. However, God is an ever-present judge, either excusing or condemning our life’s work. He “judges” or is judging right now. Either He pats us on the back or head and says “atta boy” or He shakes His head and “Why?” We need to maintain this holy fear derived from a deep sense of God’s presence realized by faith. We cannot even offer acceptable worship without godly, reverential fear of our God (Hebrews 12.28-29). Some (many?) in Christendom are of the opinion that the OT preaches fear, but the NT teaches nothing but love. Jesus and the NT writers bid us fear God.

18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

Knowing…your forefathers: here is what prompts that reverential fear: knowledge of redemption. These Christians were slaves of the empty & useless lifestyle passed down to them by their ancestors. But in Christ they have been liberated from those ways. The contrast between how they conduct themselves now versus how they conducted themselves before is drawn. They were ransomed from (Gk ek) or out of the sphere of sinful ways to the sphere of obedience to God. The hereditary chain of sin is broken by Christ’s blood.

We tend to think of the spiritual aspects of redemption (saved from sin), but Peter points out the practical nature of redemption (saved from a former lifestyle). How many people today are caught up in the empty lifestyle passed down to them from the previous generation? How many people today know all too well the futility of their lifestyle? The hereditary chain of partying; the hereditary chain of drinking; the hereditary chain of smoking; the hereditary chain of drug abuse; the hereditary chain of pride; the hereditary chain of anger; the hereditary chain of foul language; the hereditary chain of hatred; the hereditary chain of worthlessness. Christ’s blood and only Christ’s blood can break all these chains. We here know this, just as the 1st century audience knew it: had it not been for God & the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we would still be in bondage to that former futile lifestyle. But God and Christ change lives.

Not with…silver or gold: Silver and gold cannot liberate anyone from spiritual captivity. No physical, earthly object(s) could buy back these people from their former sinful manner of life.

19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

But with…Christ: But is emphatic (Gk alla). The impetus for holy conduct as exiles under empire is the ransom price: Christ’s precious blood. Only Christ’s blood could pay the ransom price.  Unlike gold & silver which will ultimately perish, Christ’ body did not see corruption (cf. Acts 2.31).

Not bling but blood. Not coins but Christ. The blood of Christ is so precious, so valuable to God. We must never take lightly the extreme cost of our redemption. The moment we do is when the evil has opportunity to snatch us away from Christ. To lightly esteem or underestimate the value of Christ’s blood in our redemption is a root of all kinds of evil. It is at the heart of every fallen away Christian. If we truly esteemed Christ’s blood as precious, as supremely valuable, we would never walk away from Him, but cling to Him more closely.

Like that…blemish or spot:  Some see here a Passover connection however it seems better to understand this more broadly since frequently the requirement under the Law was for a lamb “without blemish” (Lev 3.6; 4.32; et al). Christ of course was without sin—pure & undefiled. Thus Christ is the fulfillment of all the sacrifices under the Law. Specifically here, He was sacrificed in our stead to free us from bondage of the former life.

20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

He was foreknown…the world: Before time existed, in eternity, God knew that man would sin & rupture relationship with Him and need to be ransomed. So Christ, the Son, was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13.8). It was the plan before time began.

But was made manifest…you: With the cosmic, eternal foreknowledge of God before them, Peter says that all of the scheme of redemption was “for your sake” (NIV). From the timeless realm of eternity comes the Lamb into human history (time & space) in the last times, i.e. “the end of the ages” (1 Cor 10.11). In light of such a great revelation of God’s Son, live appropriately.

21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Who through Him as believers in God: Through Christ those to whom Peter wrote had become believers, that is they came to put their trust in God. Their faith is based upon historical facts…

Who raised…Him glory: i.e. the resurrection & ascension of Christ by the power of God.

So that…in God: By the resurrection and glorification (exaltation) of Christ, God has a laid a firm foundation upon which the Christian can build his/her faith. Further, he/she can have confident expectation of their own resurrection and glorification someday.

22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Having purified…love: Having purified (perf.) is used here in a spiritual sense to indicate consecration to God’s service. Their souls, i.e. their whole persons, are set apart for service unto God. Purification happens “in obedience to the truth” (NASB) and is for (Gk eis) a sincere (lit. unhypocritical) brotherly love (Gk Philadelphian). So Peter’s focus is on the rationale behind love: they love their siblings because they have purified their souls by obeying the truth.

Peter’s first specific application of his command to live a holy life is for Christians to love one another. This then is the first mark of genuine Christians who are in pursuit of holiness: deep, earnest love for their fellow Christians. This is testimony to the power of the gospel. Even the most hard-hearted individual might have their affections changed dramatically & permanently.

“Love one another” – why this command to these people? Certainly the temptation to just survive with fellow Christians, gathered together & rubbing shoulders like so many marbles in a sack. But that Peter has to command this implies they were a) growing lax in fulfilling this “new command” or b) former relationships with non-Christians were being rekindled. It would have been easy for these persecuted Christians to just fall back into old patterns of life, relapse due to these old connections. How many Christians does this same thing happen? Old relationships with people who know you became a Christian but themselves do not want a part of Christ have dragged many backward. But we have exchanged the flesh for the Spirit! Saved people love other saved people.

Love one another…heart: “As [these Christians] face persecution and distress from without, it is vital that they maintain mutual support from within” (Black & Black 51). Earnestly includes not only intensity but also duration (i.e. without ceasing). A pure heart is a prerequisite for Christian love.

This is all the more reason why our new relationships with fellow Christians must be all more “earnest” and spring from a “pure heart.” This is all the more reason why love must be “unhypocritical,” that is, genuine & without show. This is not a call for Christian glad-handing & hand-patting. Love is not smarmy. This is not a call for “working the crowd” or “pressing the flesh.” Love is not political. This is not a call for self-exaltation – “What would you do without me, brother?” Love does not boast (excessive praise). This certainly is not a call to pretend to love your brother to their face, & then tear them down behind their back to someone else. Real, genuine, sincere love is not duplicitous. “God is love” and He is none of these things.

Genuine Love: Romans 12.9; 2 Cor 6.6. Love from a “pure heart” – that is it is unmixed, i.e. not because of what you can do for me or “what have you done for me lately?” Not because it gives me some benefit or pleasure. Not because you belong to my church. “Even sinners do that!” That’s worldly love, but genuine love from a pure heart is unmixed with worldly love. “Earnest” or fervent – it is hot! “Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of YHWH. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Songs 8.6-7).

23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Since…born again: cf. v.3. Single word in original (perf. Pass.). Christians were born again and stand born of God as His children. Here is perhaps the highest argument for strong love for one another: we are all children of the Father, all born again.

The use of two perfect tense words (“having purified” [v.22] & “having been born again”) is interesting. The first is active; the second is passive. Said another way, the first states what we are able to do, the second what God did. The first goes back to the second. In other words, because God has caused us to be born again, we have been & are purifying our souls by our obedience to His truth.

Not…imperishable: Or “not of mortal seed (i.e. parentage) but of immortal.” The contrast is between natural birth (by a human father) & spiritual birth (by the heavenly Father).

“The seeds are the thoughts of God, the truth of God; and they are seeds out of which the life of holiness must burst and grow” (Caffin 59).

Through the…word of God: It is through His word that God causes people to be born again. The word is identified as “the good news” (v.25). “It is the uniform doctrine of the Scriptures that divine truth is made the instrument of quickening the soul into spiritual life” (Barnes). The word is living and abiding of course because Jesus said “My words will never pass away” (Matt 24.35, et al).

24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,

For…: This introduces the quotation from Isaiah 40.6, 8 as confirmation of what Peter has said.

“All flesh…flower of grass”: All flesh speaks all human beings, mankind. All its glory is a reference to man’s accomplishments, beauty, strength, intelligence, riches, & greatness. Peter says all mankind & all of the greatness of mankind is like grass…the flower of grass. In this comparison, Peter is pointing out the frailty of mankind.

“The grass…falls”:  Lit. “withered the grass, fallen the bloom!” It is emphatic. These earthly, natural elements fade away and perish. So too is human life & glory transitory, given only a certain amount vitality & endurance before it gives out.

We know how brief this life is. It is theme constant in Scripture (James 4.14, et al). When a brother or sister, a loved one, a close friend dies we are reminded yet again by our experience of the transitory nature of this life. Both Scripture & experience affirm what Peter is saying here.

25but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

“But the…forever”: Now the contrast—while everything in the natural world is transitory, the word (Gk rhema) of the Lord (LXX of God) is permanent. The world fades, but the word is fixed. Christians have an eternally abiding nature (2 Pt 1.4) because we have been born again by “the living & abiding word,” the forever-word of God.

“The Word of the Lord Abides Forever” – this world is going out of business. But God’s word is “living & abiding,” that is, it lives and continues to lives. Men & women, like grass & flowers, wither and pass away. But when the eternal word of God is uttered and they hear it with open ears and open heart, eternal life is imparted to the obedient. Everything in this world gives out except the spoken word of God contained in the gospel today.

And this word…preached to you: Word (Gk rhema) is the spoken word of God. It is the “good news” of Zion & Jerusalem (Isa 40.9), fulfilled in Christ, preached to you & imparting life & grace.

1So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

So…: Since you have obeyed the gospel, been born again, & are to love one another…

Put away: Or stop doing what you are used to doing. Same word Paul uses in Ephesians (4.22) in speaking of putting off the old self. Indeed, these Christians have been ransomed from the former lifestyle and in Christ have a new lifestyle to live before their Father & with one another.

All malice: Every bit of hateful feelings toward others is to be abandoned. Malice is a disposition or spirit which holds ill-will & thinks evil of other people. Stop thinking evil of others, esp. siblings.

Malice eats churches alive because it eats too many members alive.

All deceit: Or “guile” (KJV, ASV). This is trickery & treachery, fraud & falsehood. Brethren ought not lie to each other, nor express with their lips what is not in their hearts.

Is it deceitful for us when we greet each other to respond “fine” when life is anything but fine? “How are you?” “Fine.” But you’re really not. Is that a form deceit?  Lenski says deceit is “to mislead other to their own hurt and to our own supposed advantage.”

Hypocrisy:  Lit. hypocrisies (pl). Pretending to be what we are not. The word originally was for stage actors in a play who wore masks & pretended to be someone else. Appearing religious, pious, Christian, when we never intend to truly be such. Plural because there are so many ways to be fake.

Barnes says the hypocrisies are toward both God and man:

hypocrisy to God is, when persons profess that which they have not, as love to God, faith in Christ, zeal for religion, fervent devotion, and sincerity in the worship of God; and do all they do to be seen of men, and appear outwardly righteous, and yet are full of all manner of iniquity: hypocrisy to men is, pretence of friendship, loving in word and tongue only, speaking peaceably with the mouth, but in heart laying wait; a sin to be abhorred and detested by one that is born from above; and is contrary to that integrity, simplicity, and sincerity of heart, which become regenerate persons, the children of God, and brethren one of another:

Envy: Envies (pl). Or “jealousies” (cf. NCV). Hating others because of some advantage (real or imaginary) or possession they have which we do not.

All slander: or “evil speaking” (NKJV).  This all kinds of unkind talk which seeks only to run down someone else. Defamation of character, false accusations, backbiting,

Note; all of these vices are not in keeping with the character of those who have been begotten of God and infused with a new divine nature. Those who have experienced the grace of God must themselves learn to be gracious to others, esp. toward brothers & sisters.

“All these sins aim at harming other people, whereas love seeks the good of others” (Grudem 94). All of these sins likewise will hurt the Christian, hinder his/her growth, and quite possibly jeopardize their salvation unless abandoned immediately. We must take off this robe of many sins

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

Like newborn infants…: Infants would be free from all of the vices mentioned in v.1. As those “born again” by the Father they must “be infants in evil” but mature in their thinking (1 Cor 14.20).

Long for…spiritual milk: Long is an imperative and expresses a desire for something. As they get rid of the impure desires of v.1, they are to “crave” (NIV) for the pure spiritual milk of God. These would be the spiritual truths & doctrines of God which are “without guile” (contrast v.1).  Indeed, “the commandment of YHWH is pure” (Psalm 19.8).

Irenaeus, early church writer, in talking about heretics in his day that they mixed the pure spiritual milk with chalk. How many today do the same thing with the pure, unadulterated gospel of God? They gag & choke on the polluted, theologically shallow gospel!

The milk is “spiritual” (Gk logikon from which we get “logic”) or “reasonable” or “rational.” Hence, all of the sins mentioned in v.1 are unreasonable & irrational behaviors for the child of God. Flee to the reasonable, rational shores of pure love for one another & for God.

That…salvation: Putting away sinful attitudes & practices while filling ourselves up with the love & purity of God & His words is vital for spiritual growth. “The soul which feeds upon the pure milk of the Word [grows] continually unto salvation” (Caffin 69).

3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

If indeed…is good:  Cf. Psalm 34.8. If would better be understood as “for” (RSV) or “since.”  Peter does not doubt these Christians have tasted the goodness & kindness of God. Rather, assuming they have tasted the Lord’s goodness, they will crave even more & fuller tastes.

You know how sometimes you try something which you are not sure you will like. As a kid you are coerced into trying stuff which was unappealing to you with the phrase, “You might like it.” Well, Peter knows that those who taste God’s goodness will like. And having tasted it…mmm…Yes, I would like more please! “The first experiences of the Christian life stimulate God’s people to further efforts” (Caffin 69).

There is some neat word play here: the word for Christ is Christos and the word for good is chrestos. In fact, early church writers like Tertullian adopted the confussion of heathens: Christos chrestos, Christ is good. Indeed, Christians follow the good Christ.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 1

Peter begins this epistle with a practical doxology, that is, a word of praise which encompasses the present state of his readers (and himself) in the midst of affliction in the world. Though he and his readers are experience fiery trials, God is blessed for His power, salvation, & mercy. Further, this is the culmination of the eternal plan of God, the prediction of prophets & the curiosity of angels.

Living Hope – Born Out of Grace (1 Peter 1.3-12)

By God’s grace these Christians have been born again to a living hope, viz. the salvation of their souls through faith.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Blessed…Jesus Christ: This is verbatim the same as Paul in Ephesians (1.3) & 2 Corinthians (1.3). In the NT, the word “blessed” is used only of God; He alone is worthy to be blessed. People are blessed when they receive His blessings. The 1st person of the Godhead is God of the man Jesus Christ (see John 20.17, “my God”) and Father of God the Son. As the spring from which flows the fountain of “great mercy” & “salvation” (5, 9, 10) He is worthy of praise.

According to His great mercy: In His kindness He does not give us what our sin deserves.

He has caused us to be born again: A single word in the Greek. We were dead because of sin. Through the new birth we were given new life. This is the genesis of salvation. At some point in the past (aorist tense), we were born again. By the new birth God becomes the Father of all Christians.

To [a] living hope…from the dead: Our hope is rooted in the objective fact of history which is the resurrection of Jesus. Thus hope is the confident expectation of life after this life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so Christians are raised from spiritual death to eternal life.  In a single phrase Peter unites the beginning of our salvation (born again) with the consummation of our salvation (living hope). In fact, Christians are born again into (Gk eis) living hope.

How do we react when we face persecution & pressure from the world? When we face earthly stress & distress do we open our mouths in praise? Do we praise Him from our hearts? Do we contemplate His majesty & wisdom as a merciful God? Peter (and all of Scripture) shows us a better way. Contemplate the salvific acts and mercy of the blessed God, sing His glory and majesty, magnify Him lest we shrink under the weight of pressure.

4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

To an inheritance…kept in heaven for you: Here is the Christian’s hope—inheritance in heaven. The inheritance is eternal blessedness with God & Christ in heaven. It is 1) not subject to death or decay, 2) unsoiled & free from impurity, and 3) is pristine in brilliance, like a flower that never wilts. When Peter says it is kept (perf. pass.) or “reserved” (NASB) he is saying that God stored up this inheritance for saints and it continues to be there in heaven ready for us.

Many commentators draw a distinction between the Old Covenant inheritance (the Promised Land) and the New Covenant. Consider that the old inheritance was taken from the people of Israel for their many & various corruptions. But even while it was theirs it produced rewards that faded and decayed, defiled by sin. But now the new inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven.” So vastly superior is the New Covenant inheritance.

They do it more at nicer restaurants (the kind of restaurants I tend to avoid) where you call ahead and reserve a table. Let’s say you did that before you came to service tonight: you’ve got a table reserved at the Branding Iron for some time after service. They reserved that table as soon as you called, maybe even put a little placard on the table that says “Reserved.” And they are keeping it reserved until you show up at the appointed time. It’s yours. So God has done for the Christian. You have a reservation in heaven made when you were born again. And your Father through the Son and in the Spirit are keeping it just “for you.” It’s yours!

5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Who by…through faith: God’s power is more than sufficient for anything, including creation, miracles, resurrection, etc. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer 32.17). Christians are those being guarded (perf. pass.) by God’s power. This was a military term denoting the protection of a city from hostile invasion. So God protects us from a hostile onslaught from the world, the devil, & sin. We cooperate with this protection through faith, viz. continuing to trust in God.

For a salvation…the last time: When the last page of this world’s history is written and the veil of this physical world is pulled back & gives way to the spiritual reality is the last time. Then will our salvation be finally & fully revealed or uncovered to be enjoyed by the saints of God forever. When Peter wrote, this salvation was ready, right at the point of being revealed.

Some might object that a salvation “kept” or “reserved” for some future time is of no use in the here & now. Peter in the very same breath as he describes the reserved inheritance points us right back to the here & now – God is guarding us. We are not calmly secure in heaven, but we are mightily guarded by God’s power. The perfect tense indicates that we are continually guarded: when we were born into the kingdom of God, the protection began and it continues to this day so long as we cooperate with God “through faith.” “Faith is the instrument by means of which we grasp the Divine strength, so that it is made perfect in our weakness” (Caffin 5).

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

In this you rejoice: In anticipation of the revelation of final salvation & reception of the hope. Verses 3-5 are the basis of these Christians’ joy. The term used for rejoice (Gk agalliao) denotes a deep, spiritual joy stemming from the mighty acts of God (cf. Luke 1.47; Acts 16.34).

Though now…various trials: Joy in the midst of suffering is of course a thoroughly Christian theme (see James 1.2ff). Peter has pointed these Christians ahead to “the last time” but now these Christians have been grieved and pressed by various trials. Though unspecified in this epistle, no doubt the state-sanctioned empire-wide persecution of Nero is in view. That these trials are “fiery” (4.12) might hint at the brutal practices of Nero. If necessary seems to be Peter’s way of saying “Since this is God’s will.”

7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So that…your faith: Here is what should be the product of trials for Christians—genuine faith. Tested genuineness is from a single word which had ties to metal working. So the faith of these Christians is verified in the crucible of trials, the furnace of fiery trials.

More precious…by fire: Gold under fire is separated from all impurities, they are burned away and only gold remains. So faith is refined in the furnace of trial & the process to arrive there is more valuable than testing gold in the crucible.

May be found…Jesus Christ: Genuine faith should result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus comes back. Praise from God (“Well done…”), glory which is Christ’s from before the world, & honor bestowed upon us in the crown of righteousness.

While many see the contrast as being between faith & gold and while that contrast is valid, Peter is ultimately contrasting the process of testing genuine faith with the refining of gold by fire. To remove all the dross and impurities from gold so that all you have is gold is impressive. However, the more momentous feat is the testing of faith by trials and coming through with deeper character, looking more like Christ. Just as impurities are removed from gold by fire, so fiery trials remove from the Christian such impurities as pride, self-reliance, gratification of the flesh. Add to this that gold “is perishable” (NASB) because one day everything will be burned up at the end, but faith abides along with hope & love.

In the span of three verses Peter has mentioned the final judgment twice: “the last time” (v.5) and “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is a firm reminder to Christians that we live eschatologically, ever looking forward to and living in light of that day of days when He who rolled everything out will roll it all back up. Therefore, we live life which praises God for His great mercy and wonderful salvation; we honor Him with our lives and walk worthily; we are changed from degree of glory to another degree day-by-day as we live for Him. If we would see & receive praise, honor, & glory we must live praise, honor, & glory.

8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Though…you love Him: Unlike Peter who was a witness of Christ’s sufferings (5.1) & one of the “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pt 1.16), these Christians in Asia Minor have not seen (aorist) at any point in the past Jesus. Yet they have a continual & progressive love (present) for Christ.

Though…you believe in Him: Presently Jesus is at the right hand in the unseen heavenly realms & is beyond physical vision. Yet these Christians have faith (present) in Christ. Cf. Jn 20.29.

I wonder if Peter had his mind on his face-to-face reinstatement with Jesus as recorded in John’s gospel. Peter had seen Him, but all he could muster was “Phileo you.” I have a strong affection for you. But Jesus had asked “Agapas me.” These Christians in Asia have never had that face-to-face meeting & yet they answer the unspoken question “Agapas Jesus?” with an emphatic “YES!” We have never seen Jesus. But by faith the question comes ringing from our Lord’s lips down the pathway of years: “Do you love me?” “Agapas me?” Only you can answer this question in your heart of hearts.

In a similar way, we do not presently see Jesus physically. Yet our total trust is in Him. We must have a continual faith which deepens as the years go by.

Rejoice…with glory: Because of their faith in & love for Christ they have a joy which is beyond words (inexpressible) and containing the glory of heaven (filled with glory).

“Filled with glory” is from a single word in the original which is a perfect passive participle. That is we do not add glory or bring any glory to it; it is bestowed upon us (passive). But more interesting this glory, being outside ourselves, is from God and therefore has been in existence long before we come on the scene (perfect). Perhaps an illustration: when Moses came down from the mountain, having been in the presence of God, “his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Ex 34.29). Paul tells us Moses was reflecting the glory of God (2 Cor 3.7ff). That glory came from being in God’s glorious presence. So joy which is “filled with glory” is joy that is infused with that heavenly glory and continues to possess that glory (perfect). “It is the joy of heaven before heaven, experienced now in fellowship with the unseen Christ” (Grudem 66).

9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Obtaining…your souls: As Christians continue to grow in love, faith, & joy, they are obtaining (present) the goal of faith, their salvation. In Peter, soul stands for the whole person (cf. 3.20).

Daily continuing in love, faith, & joy will produce the marvelous blessing of growth & maturity as Christians. This is the progressive nature of “obtaining the outcome of your faith.” While “the salvation of your souls” anticipates what is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (v.5), there is the present reality & everyday experience of Christian growth in the here & now as well.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,

Concerning this salvation: Both what we enjoy in the present & what will be “revealed”…

The prophets…inquired carefully:  Cf. Mt 13.17. The prophets spoke about the grace for (eis) us. They had some real knowledge of it but it was incomplete & they longed to know more. So they exerted considerable effort to search & seek information concerning grace & salvation.

“That salvation was so magnificent a prospect that it concentrated upon itself the rapt attention and deepest interest of those to whom the promise was revealed.” They were like miners mining for treasure: they would uncover a gem, but only when refined by the Incarnation did it true beauty shine.

Peter is working to help his audience realize just how great their salvation is in Christ and to get them to better appreciate the grace of God. He does this by focusing on two groups which never tasted the sweet grace of God as we have under the New Covenant: prophets & angels. Peter tells his readers (and us by extension) that the grace by which we are saved was the study of seers for centuries & is the abstraction of angels for eons. How dare us be apathetic concerning the salvation of our souls! Do we not realize the exceeding glory & grandeur of the joy of our salvation? Have our hearts grown cold & dull? Should we not instead fix our attention on the sufferings of Christ just as the prophets before us did? Should we not instead give our undivided concentration to the glories of His resurrection & ascension just as the angels do? The prophets searched & inquired with prayer & fasting; how much more should we imitate their example, searching the Scriptures, meditating upon them, watching unto prayer.

11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

Inquiring…was indicating: Though Peter does not specify what they inquired, the word used here is also used by Jesus in reference to Scripture (Jn 5.39). So the prophets searched their & whatever other writings they had in an attempt to know who and when the Holy Spirit was indicating or pointing. Indicating (imperfect) describes how the Holy Spirit kept making these indications.

When He predicted…subsequent glories: The Holy Spirit predicted these things by the prophets. The sufferings of Christ speaks to His torture & crucifixion which are well testified to in the Old Testament (e.g. Psa 22; Isa 53). The subsequent glories (pl.) points to His resurrection & ascension. It is Peter who proclaims that these prophesies have been fulfilled by God (Acts 3.18).

An example of a prophet searching & inquiring of the Scriptures is Daniel. Whether he was reading the book of Jeremiah to glean some idea of Christ is not mentioned, but he was reading Jeremiah’s work (Daniel 9.2). Could he have been reading Jeremiah to better understand the person & time of Christ but discovered something else during his Bible study? Does not this happen during our Bible studies? We’ll be reading right along, maybe even have some subject which we are diligently trying to better understand, only to uncover some other hidden gem from Scripture.

12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

It was revealed…but you: It is God who revealed (passive) to the prophets that their prophecies were not for their time & circumstance. Their search & inquiry of the Scriptures confirmed this. They came to know that their service was not for themselves, but for those saved by this grace. Their prophecies certainly brought them hope as they lived by faith. However, they were serving (imperfect) a yet future generation. So their ministry was far grander than they knew.

In the things…the good news to you: The things are the most significant facts of history—the sufferings & glories of Christ. These have now been announced to you…by the Holy Spirit. The announcement originates with God in heaven. Thus the Spirit is sent (Gk apostalenti [aorist]) from heaven, commissioned on Pentecost to oversee the advance of the gospel. Then through those who preached the good news to you (lit. those who evangelized you) He announced it (aorist). Certainly Peter would be head of that list but not the only one on it. Other evangelists no doubt worked in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to evangelize Asia Minor.

Things…to look: Throughout the Law angelic beings had ringside seats to what was doing: cherubim in the Holy of Holies (Ex 25.20-21), seraphim in the heavenly temple (Isa 6.1-2). Peter says that they still long (present) to look into how God’s grace is demonstrated in Christ’s sufferings & glories in relation to the salvation of souls.

Consider that Paul says “the mystery of godliness…was seen by angels” (1 Tim 3.16). When Christ stepped onto the grand stage of human history, every angelic eye was fixated on his every move. His birth, His childhood, His adolescence, His youth, His temptations, His ministry, His miracles, His sermons, His trails, His torture, His crucifixion, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension. All the while, the angels watch with rapt attention the great facts of the history of redemption. Even now the angels still delight to contemplate the advance of the kingdom. They “long to look” into these things.

Nothing causes the angels more confusion than when men & women for whom Christ died allow their faith to grow cold & their walk with Christ becomes listless. Maybe they can understand when men & women for whom Christ died refuse to honor Christ with their life since the evil one has so blinded the world. But when Christians, those who angels serve, whom Christ has saved and God has graced, backslide or rebel or fail to grow, choosing immaturity, surely is the cause of much angelic perplexity & vexation.

Introduction & Greetings – 1 Peter 1.1-2

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

Peter: see Author.

An apostle…: Without doubt Peter was one of those selected & sent by Christ Jesus.

To those…of the Dispersion: Here is some of the Jewish flavor of this epistle. Dispersion was a term used by Jews to describe their countrymen who we scattered abroad living among the pagans. But these are elect exiles of the Dispersion, i.e. Christians among the pagans in Asia Minor. They were chosen by the King of the universe to be included in His people (elect). Thus, they have a new country—Heaven (Phil 3.20)—a true spiritual homeland (exiles).

Pontus: Asia Minor province which stretched along the south shore of the Black Sea.

Galatia: North-Central Roman territory which could include ethnic areas in the south.

Cappadocia: Isolated area due to Taurus Mtns. (N), Euphrates River (W), & Lake Tatta (E).

Asia: Roman province which embraced western parts of Asia Minor with Ephesus as capital.

Bithynia: Roman province in NW Asia Minor. Paul was prevented from going here (Acts 16.7).

“Elect exiles” is Peter’s “two-word sermon” for this epistle (Grudem 48). Election has a rich Jewish history going back to the origin of the nation of Israel. Springing from His love for their “fathers” God “chose their offspring after them” (Deut 4.37). Regularly Israel is presented as God’s “chosen one’s” (Psalm 105.6; 106.5) or His “chosen people” (Isa 43.20). Also prevalent in the Old Testament is the sojourner motif. This goes all the way back to the father of the faith Abraham who was a “sojourner” among the Hittites (Gen 23.4; cf. Heb 11.13). Although these two themes are dominant in the Old Testament, no one in either Jewish or Christian literature had combined them into this single phrase of “elect exile” as Peter does. Further, Peter applies this phrase to Christians living under empire (i.e. Rome). Though in an earthly sense they may have lived in & been citizens of one city, spiritually they were transients, strangers, sojourners looking forward to a heavenly city. Though their former life was riddled with all kinds of sin & evil expelling them from the people of God, in Christ they chosen by God through their obedient acceptance of the Son.

It is upon this rich heritage that we stand. By doing what they did we get what they got and become what they were: elect exiles. Select sojourners. Chosen transients. Though we may have lived in the same city our whole life or have traveled hither & yon as citizens of the world, spiritually we are “just a-passin’ through” with our treasures “laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Though our former lives were uncontrollable messes broken by sin, in Christ we have learned self-control by upholding the ethic of this spiritual kingdom we have elected to join. We, like our brethren of the 1st century, are elect exiles living under empire.

2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

According to…the Father: The election of these exiles is according to the foreknowledge (Gk prognosis) of the Father. God knew in advance there would be “a chosen race” (selected strangers) formed around Christ (who Himself was “foreknown before the foundation of the world,” 1.20), called into being based upon their response to Christ. “God foreknew that he would send Christ and save those who accepted him” (Black & Black 31).

What does it mean to be “elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”? What is included in God’s foreknowledge, viz. what He knows beforehand? Does God know who will be saved & who won’t be saved? If He does not, does that infringe upon His omniscience? If He does know, does He also will men to these predetermined ends? There are those who argue that He does for “we cannot separate foreknowledge and predestination; the foreknowledge of an Almighty Creator must imply the exercise of choice and will” (Caffin 2). Therefore, what God knows He also wills.

Wayne Grudem suggests that the whole phrase “elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, etc.” is what is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” So “their status as sojourners, their privileges as God’s chosen people, even their hostile environment in [Asia Minor], were all known by God before the world began, all came about in accordance with his foreknowledge, and thus (we may conclude) all were in accordance with his fatherly love for his own people” (50). Imagine what comfort & peace of mind this would have brought to these persecuted Christians. Everything was under the control of a loving Father, nothing was left to chance.

In the same way, we are elect exiles in the Central Valley (or wherever you find yourself) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It is no accident that we live where we live, that we are sojourners on this earth, and that we are the chosen people of God. Rest assured that there is a grand master plan for life, even your life right where you are. See Acts 17.26-27.

In sanctification of the Spirit: or “by the sanctification of the Spirit.” That is, the Holy Spirit set these peoples of Asia Minor apart as God’s chosen people. The Spirit made them holy unto God. Cf. 2 Thess 2.13. Sanctification or to be set apart was always for a purpose, viz. service. The Holy Spirit both sets Christians apart for service & enables them to perform that service.

If the Father’s foreknowledge reaches into eternity past, the Spirit’s sanctification is a present reality. He is setting us apart more & more to look like Christ in holiness, faith, and conduct. “The unseen, unheard activity of God’s Holy Spirit surrounds [these elect exiles] almost like a spiritual atmosphere ‘in’ which they live and breathe, turning every circumstance, every sorrow, every hardship into a tool for his patient sanctifying work” (Grudem 52).

For obedience…His blood: For indicates this is the end or design of God’s plan. Both the human (obedience) and divine (sprinkling) sides of redemption are pictured here.

Obedience & sprinkling, then, looks forward to the future. The Christian’s life ought to be leading toward more & more obedience to Christ. Daily our obedience to Lord Jesus should increase. But it is also the Christian’s imperfect experience which reminds that obedience is often incomplete. So the blood of Jesus Christ is necessary to sprinkle our afflicted & guilty conscience. Thus the faithful Christian life is marked by obedience whose failings are cleansed by the blood of Christ. It is daily continual obedience & forgiveness.

May grace…to you:  Both the Greek (grace) & Hebrew (peace or shalom) forms of salutation are combined here. Peter wants the grace & peace of God to be ever increasing for these Christians.

Note: The whole Godhead is involved in the work of salvation. The Father determined beforehand, the Spirit sanctifies, & the Son sprinkles clean the obedient.

1 Peter – Introductory Material

Destination & Recipients

The epistles is addressed to “those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1.1). These Roman provinces covered all but the southernmost part of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Estimates suggest that the total population of this territory was approximately 8.5 million with 1 million Jews and 80,000 Christians by the end of the first century. These provinces embraced a large area of land as well as a very large population. That all of these provinces are mentioned is a testament to the enormous missionary activities of the early church.

The church in Asia Minor perhaps began some 30 years before Peter wrote this epistle when representatives of three of these places (Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia) who were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost heard Peter’s sermon, believed it, and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2.9). They then went back home, forming the nucleus of the church, and served as a hub for evangelistic efforts to Galatia & Bithynia. While this takes place, the apostle Paul on his 1st & 2nd missionary journeys plants and establishes churches in these areas either directly (as is the case with Galatia, Acts 14; 16.6) or indirectly (as is the case with Bithynia, Acts 19.10).

The actual composition of the churches in this area is debated. Were these predominately Jewish audiences? Were they predominately Gentile congregations? Or were they a mixture of both Jew & Gentile? While the overwhelming use of Old Testament texts might hint at a largely Jewish congregation, much of the language also indicates that there were many Gentiles, viz. the past Gentile immorality of 4.3. Their previous condition of being “not a people” – outside of the covenant – would also indicate that there was a heavy Gentile membership. Therefore, it seems reasonable that these were mixed congregations of the Lord’s people located all around Asia Minor.


As with all of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is the supreme hand behind the pen of any of wrote the books of the Bible. In this case, He oversaw the work of “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ … and a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1.1; 5.1). This epistle clearly claims to be written by the apostle people who was a witness of the Incarnation of Christ, especially His death (cf. 1.11; 2.23-24; 4.1; 5.1). Peter was apparently helped by Silvanus (also known as Silas in Paul’s letters) in the writing process (5.12). That is, he served as an amanuensis or secretary for Peter. Perhaps John Mark spurred Peter, encouraging him to write this epistle (5.13). Mark himself was surely helped along in his writing of the gospel narrative which bears his name by Peter; maybe he returned the favor.

Peter, of course, was the de facto leader of the apostles, named first in every list (Matt 10.2; Mark 3.16; Luke 6.14; Acts 1.13). He appears to the spokesman for the group on several occasions (Matt 16.13-16; Acts 2.14). Paul calls him one of “those who seemed to be influential” and one of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church when he began his ministry (Galatians 2.6-9). Peter is prominent in the opening chapters of Acts (1-12) and in the Jerusalem conference (ch. 15). Following the conference, though, he is no longer mentioned in Acts. His missionary efforts may have taken him deep into Gentile territory. In point of fact, tradition says Peter went to Rome and spent his last days there, having been martyred by Nero.

Time & Place of Composition

Lenski puts the writing of this epistle in the final year of Peter’s life, not long before he meets a martyr’s death under Nero in the year 64 AD. This is pretty well uniform among scholars although some push Peter’s martyrdom, though not necessarily the composition of this epistle, later into the 60s.

This epistle originated “at Babylon” (5.13). There are three possible options for this location: 1) Babylon in Mesopotamia, 2) a Roman military settlement at Cairo, Egypt, named Babylon, or 3) Rome. Rome is poetically pictured as “Babylon” in several Jewish works (i.e. 4 Ezdras & 2 Baruch) as well as in the Revelation (17.5; 18.2). In addition, the evidence is reasonably good that Peter lived and died in Rome. Further, the order of the destination in 1.1 indicates a circulation route originating in the West, viz. from Rome. The letter bearer would have arrived at and departed from the north shores of Pontus-Bithynia. Add to this that the city of Babylon no longer existed and there is not a hint of tradition which indicates Peter went into the distant east only serves to solidify the notion that “Babylon” is a figure for Rome.

Main Emphases & Theme

Salvation, submission, and suffering are main emphases of Peter. All of these revolve around and center in God’s grace. First, you have been saved (past), you are saved (present), and you will be saved (future). Second, in light of your salvation, submit to governing authorities, employers, spouses, one another, and, well, everyone. Third, be prepared to suffer for being a Christian. So stand firm & hope fully in God’s grace as sojourners & strangers living under empire.