David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
1 Peter 1
1 Peter 1 - Living Like You are Born Again
A. A greeting from the Apostle Peter.
1. (1) The writer and the intended readers of this letter.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
a. Peter: He was not merely an apostle, but there is a sense in which he was the leader of the apostolic group. Peter was an important and influential man in the early church. Considering the author, the first Christians would receive this letter with a sense of importance.
i. Peter's name is mentioned in the gospels more than anyone except the name of Jesus. No one speaks in the gospels as often as Peter did, and Jesus spoke more to Peter than to any other individual.
Jesus rebuked Peter more than any other disciple.
Peter was the only disciple who dared to rebuke Jesus.
Peter confessed Jesus more boldly and accurately than any other disciple.
Peter denied Jesus more forcefully and publicly than any other disciple.
Jesus praised Peter more than any other disciple.
Jesus addressed Peter as Satan alone among the disciples.
ii. Since Peter is so prominent in the gospel records, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of some of the important mentions of Peter in the record of Biblical history.
When Jesus woke up early in the morning to pray before the sun came up, Simon Peter led the other disciples on a hunt to find Jesus and tell Him what He should do (Mark 1:35-39).
Peter put his nets out at the direction of Jesus to bring in a massive catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11).
Peter went on a unique outreach trip with the other disciples (Matthew 10:1-42).
Peter stepped out of the boat during a raging storm and walked on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14:24-33).
Peter was the one who said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and to know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:68-69).
Peter saw Jesus transfigured in glory, together with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-9).
Peter was the one who asked Jesus how many times we should forgive a brother that sins against us, quoting the high number of "seven times" (Matthew 18:21-35).
Peter was the one who asked Jesus, after the encounter with the rich young ruler, what the disciples would receive for giving everything up to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:27-30).
Peter was the one who insisted that Jesus would not wash his feet; then he commanded Jesus to wash his whole body! (John 13:16-20).
Peter heard Jesus predict that he would deny Him three times (Matthew 26:30-35), and Peter replied, "Even if I have to die with you I will not deny You!" (Matthew 26:35), and the rest of the disciples agreed.
Peter was the one who cut off the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus (John 18:1-11).
Peter denied Jesus three times, cursing and swearing that he did not even know "the Man," refusing to even name the name of Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).
Peter was the one who ran with John the disciple to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection, after hearing the report of the women that the body of Jesus was not in its tomb (John 20:1-10).
Peter was the one who received a personal visit from the resurrected Jesus on the day of the resurrection (Luke 24:34).
Peter received a public restoration of Jesus in front of the other disciples after the resurrection of Jesus (John 21).
iii. Significantly, Peter introduced himself as an apostle. "The supreme importance of the apostles is suggested by the fact that the phrase of Jesus Christ is attached to no other New Testament office: we do not read of teachers of Jesus Christ or prophets of Jesus Christ or evangelists of Jesus Christ, only of apostles of Jesus Christ." (Grudem)
iv. Peter did nothing to explain or justify his apostleship and did not add a phrase like "by the will of God" as Paul did on some occasions (1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, and so on). "Unlike Paul, Peter's apostolic status was never questioned. This brief phrase indicates Peter's authority." (Hiebert)
b. To the pilgrims: The idea behind the word pilgrims is of someone who lives as a temporary resident in a foreign land. Pilgrims are sojourners and travelers, and pilgrims live in constant awareness of their true home.
i. The early Christian writing The Epistle to Diognetus gives the idea of what pilgrims are. "They inhabit the lands of their birth, but as temporary residents of it; they take their share of all responsibilities as citizens, and endure all disabilities as aliens. Every foreign land is their native land, and every native land a foreign land . . . they pass their days upon earth, but their citizenship is in heaven." (Cited in Barclay)
c. To the pilgrims of the Dispersion: Peter clearly wrote to Gentiles, Christians (see 1 Peter 1:18, 2:10, and 4:3). Yet he called them pilgrims of the Dispersion, a name that was applied to the Jews. He called them this because he saw the Christians of his day as sprinkled throughout the world as the Jewish people were in the Dispersion after the fall of Jerusalem when the Babylonians conquered Judah.
d. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia: These specific areas were places Christianity had extended in the first several decades after the beginning of the church. It was probably the route that the original courier of Peter's letter followed in distributing the letter. This was not written to any one congregation, but intentionally written to all Christians.
2. (2) Peter's description of his readers and all Christians.
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
a. Elect according to the foreknowledge: Peter first described his intended readers as elect. This means simply that they are chosen, chosen by God in a particular and unique sense.
i. "The opening characterization of the readers as elect was meant to strengthen and encourage them in their affliction. The doctrine of election is a 'family truth' intended to foster the welfare of believers." (Hiebert)
b. According to the foreknowledge of God: This describes the nature of their election. God's choosing is not random or uninformed, but according to His foreknowledge, which is an aspect of His omniscience. This foreknowledge includes prior knowledge of our response to the gospel, but is not solely dependent on it.
i. Though God's election is according to . . . foreknowledge, there is more to His foreknowledge than His prior knowledge of my response to Jesus. Election is not election at all if it is only a cause-and-effect arrangement basing God's choice only on man's.
c. In sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience: An essential result of election is sanctification and obedience. While some would like to think that election has only to do with going to heaven or hell, Peter reminds us that it also touches earth. A claim to be among the elect is doubtful if there is no evidence of sanctification and obedience.
d. And sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: However, since all the elect fall short of perfect sanctification and obedience, there is cleansing from sin provided for them through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
i. There were three circumstances in the Old Testament where blood was sprinkled on people.
At the establishment of Sinai or Old Covenant (Exodus 24:5-8).
At the ordination of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:21).
At the purification ceremony for a cleansed leper (Leviticus 14:6-7).
ii. The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus on us accomplishes the same things. First, a covenant is formed, then we are ordained as priests to Him, and finally we are cleansed from our corruption and sin. Each of these is ours through the work of Jesus on the cross.
e. God the Father . . . the Spirit . . . Jesus Christ: Peter's effortless way of combining the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our salvation displays the New Testament approach to the Trinity. It is not detailed as a specific doctrine, but woven into the fabric of the New Testament.
i. Jesus has a Father, but not in the sense of being higher than He or the One who gave Him existence. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have existed together throughout eternity and each is equally God. Father and Son are terms used to describe the relationship between these first two members of the Trinity.
f. Grace to you and peace be multiplied: Peter brought a greeting that had become common among the Christians, combining elements from Greek culture (Grace) and Jewish culture (peace).
B. What it means to be saved and to live saved.
1. (3-5) Thanks to the Father for His work of salvation.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
a. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: When Peter considered the salvation of God, his immediate response was to simply praise Him. This is especially because the motive for God's work is found in Him, not in us (being according to His abundant mercy).
i. Hiebert says of the extended passage 1 Peter 1:3-12: "This beautiful passage is the outpouring of an adorning heart. Only one who has devoutly contemplated the greatness of our salvation could utter such a magnificent paean of praise, one that prepares and encourages the suffering soul to steadfastly continue the spiritual battle."
ii. All His goodness to us begins with mercy. "No other attribute could have helped us had mercy been refused. As we are by nature, justice condemns us, holiness frowns upon us, power crushes us, truth confirms the threatening of the law, and wrath fulfils it. It is from the mercy of our God that all our hopes begin." (Spurgeon)
b. Has begotten us again: The wording of begotten us again is different from born again (John 3:3) but the meaning is the same. Peter's idea is that when a person is saved, they are made a new creation (as in 2 Corinthians 5:17).
c. To a living hope: We are born again to a living hope because we have eternal life in a Savior who has conquered death Himself. The hope lives because it is set upon an inheritance incorruptible that can never fade away because it is reserved in heaven. This is a significant contrast to any inheritance on this earth.
i. "It is also called a 'living hope,' because it is imperishable. Other hopes fade like withering flowers. The hopes of the rich, the boasts of the proud, all these will die out as a candle when it flickers in the socket. The hope of the greatest monarch has been crushed before our eyes; he set up the standard of victory too soon, and has seen it trailed in the mire. There is no unwaning hope beneath the changeful moon: the only imperishable hope is that which climbs above the stars, and fixes itself upon the throne of God and the person of Jesus Christ." (Spurgeon)
d. Incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away: Peter didn't really describe our inheritance. All he can tell us is what it is not. What our inheritance actually is is something too great for him to describe. Yet we can know that our inheritance can't perish, it can't spoil, and it can't fade away.
i. Our inheritance is like the inheritance of Aaron (Numbers 18:20) and the inheritance of the Psalmist (Psalm 16:5-6), which is the gift of God Himself. Since God gives Himself to us now, our inheritance begins here and now.
ii. We cannot experience this inheritance unless we are born again. Unregenerate man does not have the capacity to enjoy this inheritance. It would be like rewarding a blind man by showing him the most beautiful sunset or taking him to an art museum.
iii. In speaking with those who don't know Jesus we shouldn't just tell them of the agonies of hell they will experience, but also of the glories of heaven they will miss.
e. Who are kept by the power of God through faith: The promise of our inheritance is certain because we are kept by the power of God. This enables us to endure through faith until the coming of Jesus.
i. "God's power is the garrison in which we find our security." (Hiebert) We are kept by the power of God, but it is through faith, meaning our faith. The person who is kept is a person abiding in a continuing relationship of faith with God. We could say that faith activates the preserving power of God in the life of the Christian.
ii. "To have been told, as in the preceding verse, that our inheritance was reserved in heaven could have yielded us little comfort, unless that assurance had been followed and capped by this, that the heirs also are being kept for its full enjoyment." (Meyer)
2. (6-9) The purpose of trials for those who are saved.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith; the salvation of your souls.
a. In this you greatly rejoice: We especially rejoice in God's keeping power when we are grieved by various trials, knowing that He will keep us as our faith is tested by fire.
i. If need be, you have been grieved: Sometimes it is thought that a strong Christian will never be grieved in a trial. The idea is that a Christian should be like Superman; though bullets are shot at Superman, they all bounce off of his chest. Yet Peter here tells us that there is a "need be" not only for the various trials, but more especially that there is a "need be" for being grieved itself. God has a purpose not only for the trial but also for the heavy grief we feel in the trial.
ii. Various trials: "Literally, it means 'many-colored' and was used to describe 'the skin of a leopard, the different-colored veinings of marble, or an embroidered robe.'" (Hiebert)
b. Faith . . . tested by fire: Our faith isn't tested because God doesn't know how much or what kind of faith we have. It is tested because we often are ignorant of how much or what kind of faith we have. God's purpose in testing is to display the enduring quality of our faith.
i. "Indeed, it is the honor of faith to be tried. Shall any man say, 'I have faith, but I have never had to believe under difficulties'? Who knows whether thou hast any faith? Shall a man say, 'I have great faith in God, but I have never had to use it in anything more than the ordinary affairs of life, where I could probably have done without it as well as with it'? Is this to the honor and praise of thy faith? Dost thou think that such a faith as this will bring any great glory to God, or bring to thee any great reward? If so, thou art mightily mistaken." (Spurgeon)
ii. Much more precious than gold that perishes: If gold is fit to be tested and purified by fire, then how much more our faith, which is far more precious than gold? God has a great and important purpose in testing our faith.
Faith is tested to show that it is sincere faith or true faith.
Faith is tested to show the strength of faith.
Faith is tested to purify it, to burn away the dross from the gold.
iii. Gold is one of the most durable of all materials. Yet it too will one day perish, but our faith will not.
c. Receiving the end of your faith: The end of your faith is the return of Jesus and the ultimate salvation of your souls. Testing and trials are inevitable as long as we are on this side of the end of your faith. As long as we do not see the God we serve we must endure through trials and face them with faith and joy.
i. Whom having not seen you love: Peter knew that though he had seen Jesus (both before and after the resurrection) most every Christian in the early church had not seen Jesus. Nevertheless, they loved Him. Jesus was no less real because they had not seen Him.
ii. "In short, there is an equality between the believers in the present time, and those who lived in the time of the incarnation; for Christ, to a believing soul, is the same to-day that he was yesterday and will be for ever." (Clarke)
iii. The word translated "joy inexpressible" "occurs only here in the New Testament, and describes a joy so profound as to be beyond the power of words to express." (Grudem) "Their joy was no ordinary, earth-born joy." (Hiebert)
3. (10-12) The prior revelation of the salvation experienced by Christians.
Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; things which angels desire to look into.
a. Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully: It was important to Peter - and to all the New Testament writers - to demonstrate that their teaching was no novelty, but that it was testified beforehand by the prophets. Understanding this made salvation so much greater in the mind of Peter's afflicted readers.
i. "Peter did not seek to prove the truth of his teaching about salvation by showing its agreements with the prophets; rather, he sought to encourage his afflicted readers by demonstrating the importance and comprehensive grandeur of the salvation for which they were being afflicted." (Hiebert)
b. Prophesied of the grace that would come to you: The prophets of the Old Testament longed to see the grace of the New Covenant to come. Prophesying by the Spirit of Christ, they knew something of His sufferings and glories, but far less than they longed to know.
i. One may only imagine how excited Isaiah would have been to read the Gospel of John. The Old Testament prophets knew so much; yet much was hidden to them, including the character of the Church (Ephesians 3:4-6) and the very essence of life and immortality (2 Timothy 1:10).
c. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering: The prophets understood that they were ministering to people beyond them as well as to people in their own day. These things the prophets predicted were reported as fact by the apostles (the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel).
i. Because we know the Who (Jesus) and the when (Jesus' day) of these Old Testament prophecies, they should be of far more interest to us than they were even in the day of the prophets.
d. Things which angels desire to look into: The unfolding of God's eternal plan is something that angels desire to look into. Angels observe our conduct (1 Corinthians 4:9), making it necessary that Christians conduct themselves properly (1 Corinthians 11:10).
i. Part of God's eternal purpose is to show His wisdom to the angelic beings through His work with the church (Ephesians 3:10-11). God wants the angels to look in on what He does in the church, and the idea is that the angels are bending over with intense interest and desire to learn.
ii. Therefore, they desire to see and learn. This word "Denotes a strong interest or craving. The present tense portrays a present, continued inner yearning to comprehend. The term does not imply that the desire cannot or should not be fulfilled, but it does mark an enduring angelic effort to comprehend more of the mystery of human salvation." (Hiebert)
iii. "The longing must therefore include a holy curiosity to watch and delight in the glories of Christ's kingdom as they find ever fuller realization in their lives of individual Christians throughout the history of the church." (Grudem)
iv. "First Corinthians 4:9, Ephesians 3:10, and 1 Timothy 3:16 likewise picture the supernatural world eagerly observing God's program of human redemption. The concept seems grounded in Jesus' words in Luke 15:7, 10 where angels are said to rejoice over one repentant sinner." (Hiebert)
4. (13-17) The conduct of those who are saved.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
a. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind: Living the way God wants us to means that we must gird up the loins of our mind. The idea in this phrase is to prepare for action, much like the phrase "rolling up your sleeves." Then we must also be sober, which means the ability to take a serious look at life.
i. To gird up the loins of your mind is to get rid of loose and sloppy thinking; to bring the rational and reflective powers of your mind under control. It means to control what you think about, those things you decide to set your mind upon.
ii. Be sober: "It denotes a condition free from every form of mental and spiritual loss of self-control; it is an attitude of self-discipline that avoids the extremes." (Hiebert)
b. Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ: Peter has told us a lot about God's grace. He greeted us with grace (1 Peter 1:2). He told us of the grace that came to us in Jesus, predicted by the prophets of old (1 Peter 1:10). Now he goes further, writing of the grace that is to be brought to you when Jesus comes back. The only way we will be able to stand before Jesus on that day is because of the unmerited favor He gives and will give to us.
i. Grace isn't just for the past, when we first gave our lives to Jesus. It isn't only for the present, where we live each moment standing in His grace (Romans 5:2). It is also for the future, when grace will be brought to us. God has only just begun to show us the riches of His grace.
ii. "Grace is the unmerited love of God, stooping to save and bless; the source of all those bright and holy gifts which come from his infinite heart." (Meyer)
c. As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance: Fulfilling God's call to holiness requires that we, as obedient children, break off with the lifestyle of the world (which is characterized by lusts and ignorance).
d. But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy": The main idea behind holiness is not moral purity but it is the idea of "apartness." The idea is that God is separate, different from His creation, both in His essential nature and in the perfection of His attributes. But instead of building a wall around His apartness, God calls us to come to Him and share His apartness. He says to us, "Be holy, for I am holy."
i. When we fail to see God's apartness, we begin to believe that He is just a "super-man." Then we don't see that His love is a holy love, His justice is a holy justice, and so on with all of His attributes. Holiness is not so much something we possess as it is something that possesses us.
ii. In this, the God of the Bible is radically different from the pagan gods commonly worshipped in New Testament times. "Heathenism scarcely produced a god whose example was not the most abominable; their greatest gods, especially, were paragons of impurity." (Clarke)
e. And if you call on the Father: If we as Christians call on a holy God (presumably for help), we must understand that we call on a God who shows no partiality - and will so judge our conduct. This makes a working, sober, holy walk all the more important.
5. (18-21) The motivation for godly living.
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
a. Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things: The high call for godly living makes sense in light of the price that was paid for our redemption. The precious blood of Jesus did not save us so that we could then live as if we were garbage.
b. From your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers: Peter described the frame of mind which seeks to be justified by law as aimless conduct. It seems to have an aim - gaining merit before God by works - but it is in fact aimless because it cannot succeed.
c. A lamb without blemish and without spot: Peter here spoke in reference to the completely sinless character of Jesus. If He were not without blemish and without spot, He would not have been qualified to be our Redeemer.
d. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world: The work of Jesus was not a plan developed late in the course of redemption. It was foreordained before the foundation of the world, though it was made evident in these last times.
e. For you who through Him believe in God: The entire plan of redemption is for those who believe in God, though even their belief is through Him. Those who believe in God are not disappointed because their faith and hope has been substantiated by Jesus' resurrection from the dead.
6. (22-25) The necessity for love among the saved.
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
a. Love one another fervently: Holy living is incomplete if it is not accompanied by love. To be a Christian means to have a sincere love of the brethren, but we are encouraged to exercise that love fervently.
b. Love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again: Such love is only possible (and only to be expected) of those who have been born again by the eternal word of God.
i. Again, Peter did not use the same wording for born again as is found in John 3; but he did use the exact same idea.
c. Through the word of God which lives and abides forever: We are born again . . . through the word of God. But it doesn't only give us new life. It also tells us to love one another. If the word of God is as Isaiah 40:8 says it is - the word of the Lord which endures forever, then we are both obligated by it and empowered by it, to live out the kind of love and holiness Peter speaks of.
d. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever: Peter here quoted from Isaiah 40:6-8. The word of the Lord certainly has endured. It has survived centuries of manual transcription, of persecution, of ever changing philosophies, of all kinds of critics, of neglect both in the pulpit and in the pew, of doubt and disbelief - and still, the word of the Lord endures forever!
i. In ad 303 the Roman Emperor Diocletian demanded that every copy of the Scriptures in the Roman Empire be burned. He failed, and 25 years later the Roman Emperor Constantine commissioned a scholar named Eusebius to prepare 50 copies of the Bible at government expense.
ii. "A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put." (Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences)
iii. "God's Word never dies, God's Word never changes. There are some who think we ought to get a new gospel every few years or even every few weeks, but that was not Peter's notion. He wrote, and he was divinely inspired to write, concerning 'the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.'" (Spurgeon)
iv. Since this eternal, always potentially fruit-bearing seed is in us, we have both the obligation and the ability to have a sincere love of the brethren. Perhaps we could say that if we need more love towards others it begins with having more of the incorruptible seed set in our hearts and allowed to grow.
e. Through the word of God . . . Now this is the word: Some people try to draw a sharp distinction between the two Greek words most often translated word, which are the ancient Greek words rhema and logos. But here Peter used both words (logos in 1 Peter 1:23 and rhema in 1 Peter 1:25) to refer to the exact same idea. The two words sometimes have subtle differences, but often not significant differences.
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