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Peter is a Greek name (lit. Petros, meaning a stone or rock). No one else in the New Testament has the name Peter, though Peter called Christians stones in this epistle (1 Peter 2:4-5). In Aramaic "stone" is the word cephas. Jesus gave the name Cephas to Simon (The Greek transliteration of Simeon, Peter’s Hebrew name) as a prediction of what this apostle would become (John 1:42; Matthew 16:18).
The word "apostle" has both a technical and a general sense in the New Testament. It refers to the Twelve and Paul, but also to others who went out as the Twelve and Paul did to represent Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14). Peter was one of the Twelve. He wrote with full apostolic authority.
Peter called his readers aliens (NIV strangers) to introduce this self-concept into their minds. In this letter he emphasized that Christians are really citizens of heaven and our sojourn here on earth is only temporary (1 Peter 2:11; cf. Genesis 32:4; Psalms 39:12). The Greek word perepidemos (alien) contains both the ideas of alien nationality and temporary residence (cf. 1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13).
"Parepidemoi are persons who belong to some other land and people, who are temporarily residing with a people to whom they do not belong. . . .
"Aliens are often held in contempt by the natives among whom they dwell." [Note: Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, p. 21.]
"This is an epistle from the homeless to the homeless." [Note: Michaels, p. 9.]
The particular group of Christians to whom this epistle went first lived in the northern Roman provinces of Asia Minor (modern western Turkey), north of the Taurus Mountains. [Note: See Ernest Best, 1 Peter, pp. 14-15.] Peter Davids estimated that when Peter wrote this epistle about one million Jews lived in Palestine and two to four million lived outside it. Asia Minor held the third largest concentration of Diaspora Jews after Babylon and Egypt. [Note: Davids, p. 46.]
This was originally an encyclical letter written for circulation among the addressees. The sequence of provinces corresponds to the route that the bearer of the original epistle would have normally followed. [Note: F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter 1:1-2:17, pp. 157-84; Selwyn, p. 119; Goppelt, p. 4.] This is also true of the seven cities addressed in Revelation 2, 3.
Peter’s readers were God’s elect (Ephesians 1:4; cf. Deuteronomy 14:2; Isaiah 45:4). One writer believed "chosen" (NASB) should be connected with "aliens." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, "Designation of the Readers in 1 Peter 1:1-2," Bibliotheca Sacra 137:545 (January-March 1980):65.] However most translators regarded "chosen" as a noun, not an adjective, as the NASB suggests. [Note: E.g., Bigg, p. 90.]
". . . the letter develops a unified thematic focus: the existence of Christians in a non-Christian society and overcoming that society by being prepared to bear oppression, i.e., to ’suffer.’
"This thematic focus, i.e., the question of how to live in society-the fundamental problem of every social ethic-was for Jesus’ disciples from the very beginning an acute problem." [Note: Goppelt, p. 19.]
I. INTRODUCTION 1:1-2
Peter began this epistle in the manner that was customary in his day. [Note: See Philip L. Tite, "The Compositional Function of the Petrine Prescript: A Look at 1 Peter 1:1-3," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:1 (March 1996):47-56.] He introduced himself and his original readers, and he wished God’s blessing on them to prepare them for what he had to say. He prepared them for dealing with trials by reminding them of who they were, what they had, and where they were going (1 Peter 1:1-5).
Election originates in the eternal will and purpose of God the Father. The foreknowledge (Gr. prognosin; cf. Acts 2:23) of God refers, of course, to what God knows beforehand. God’s foreknowledge has an element of determinism in it because whatever really happens that God knows beforehand exists or takes place because of His sovereign will. Therefore when Peter wrote that God chose according to His foreknowledge he did not mean that God chose the elect because He knew beforehand they would believe the gospel (the Arminian position). God chose them because He determined beforehand that they would believe the gospel (the Calvinist position; cf. Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Peter 5:13). [Note: For further explanation of the Calvinist position, see L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 7:158-60.]
"When applied to God’s knowledge of persons (whether of Jesus or his people), ’foreknowledge’ is more than mere prescience, it involves choice or determination as well (cf. Acts 2:23 -the only other NT use of the noun-and Judges 9:6; also the verb proginoskein, ’know,’ in Romans 8:29; Romans 11:2, as well as 1 Peter 1:20). In this sense God ’knows’ some people and not others, whereas a general prescience would be all inclusive (cf. the particularized use of ’know’ in Amos 3:2; Hosea 5:3; Hosea 12:1 [LXX]; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9)." [Note: Michaels, pp. 10-11.]
The Holy Spirit accomplished election when He separated the elect and set them aside to a special calling. God’s purpose in election was that we might obey God the Son and that He might sprinkle us with His blood (cf. Ephesians 2:10).
"To ’sprinkle with Christ’s blood’ means to take a person into the realm of influence of Christ’s dying, to align him or her with the One who died. This alignment accomplishes, as the figure expresses graphically, purification and thereby appropriation into a new connection to God." [Note: Goppelt, p. 75. Cf. Bigg, p. 93.]
This is probably an allusion to covenant ratification (cf. Exodus 24:5-8). Jesus’ blood was the ratification of the New Covenant (cf. Matthew 26:27-28; Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:20) since it was the basis for the forgiveness of sins (as promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34). [Note: Buist M. Fanning, "A Theology of Peter and Jude," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, pp. 441-42.]
"Peter’s choice of images confirms the impression that he writes to communities of Gentiles as if they were a strange new kind of Jew." [Note: Michaels, p. 13.]
In this verse Peter referred to all three members of the Trinity.
"The primary import of the three clauses [that begin 1 Peter 1:2] is to open up clearly at the outset of the Epistle the transcendent origin, nature, and purpose of the Church and its life." [Note: Selwyn, p. 119.]
Probably Peter had Old Testament sprinkling of blood in mind when he wrote this verse. There are many Old Testament allusions in this epistle. Sprinkling with blood in Israel resulted in cleansing (Numbers 19:9), bringing the person sprinkled under the terms and blessings of a covenant (Exodus 24:3-8), and induction into the priesthood and kingship. Members of the priesthood enjoyed the privilege of mediating between God and people (Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30). Members of the royal line in Israel enjoyed the privilege of reigning under God. All of these benefits belong to the Christian whom God has figuratively sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, the final sacrifice for our sins. Obedience is our responsibility, and sprinkling is our privilege. Christ’s blood covers our sins as sinners, cleanses our defilement as unclean people, and consecrates our service as priests and kings.
"The author sees himself and his readers as a community situated in the world in much the same way the Jews are situated, and sharing with the Jews a common past." [Note: Michaels, p. l.]
Peter prayed for God’s fullest outpouring of His favor and help on his readers. They needed this in view of their sufferings, which Peter proceeded to discuss. His readers also needed God’s gift of peace since they were suffering.
"In looking back over Peter’s designation of his readers, one is awed by the sweep and richness of his statement. If one has been prone to think of Peter primarily as an aggressive man of action, he here reveals himself also as a man who had a firm grasp of the great spiritual realities of the faith." [Note: Hiebert, pp. 73-74.]
Peter called his readers to bless (praise) God for giving us a living hope. This undying hope has its roots in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because He lives, we shall live. Our new birth gave us this life. Consequently our hope is both alive within us and part of our new life in Christ.
"Just as ’faith’ can be subjective (the act or state of believing), or objective (the content of belief), so ’hope’ can refer either to an anticipation (even a certainty) of good things to come or to the content of that anticipation, the good things themselves. The ’living hope’ of which Peter speaks here is better understood in the second, objective, sense. As such, it appropriately parallels, and is further explained by, the ’inheritance’ of 1 Peter 1:4 and the ’salvation’ of 1 Peter 1:5 (cf. Colossians 1:5 . . .)." [Note: Ibid., p. 19.]
Many popular writers have called Paul the apostle of faith, John the apostle of love, and Peter the apostle of hope. They have done so because of the dominant emphasis each of these writers made in the New Testament. Peter had much to say about hope in this epistle. [Note: See Geerhardus Vos, "A Sermon on 1 Peter 1:3-5," Kerux 1:2 (September 1986):4-17.]
"While Peter’s teaching on how salvation is applied gave attention to the beginning and continued process of living as a Christian, the actual words for ’salvation’ have a predominantly future orientation in 1 Peter." [Note: Fanning, p. 447.]
"Born again" (cf. 1 Peter 1:23) describes the Christian who experienced spiritual regeneration (John 3:3). The phrase stresses the great change that takes place at conversion and our resultant participation in the life of God. God has been exceedingly merciful in giving us this blessing (cf. Romans 11:30-32; Romans 15:9; Ephesians 2:1-7; Titus 3:5). One writer considered salvation the major theme of this epistle. [Note: Paul A. Cedar, James , 1, 2 Peter, Jude, p. 120.]
1. The hope of our salvation 1:3-5
II. THE IDENTITY OF CHRISTIANS 1:3-2:10
The essentially chiastic structure of thought in the letter, excluding the introduction and conclusion, can be visualized in the outline (above). The recurrence of the direct address "Beloved" in 1 Peter 2:11 and 1 Peter 4:12 divides this letter into three main parts.
"The theme of the first part is the identity of the people of God established on the basis of the great salvation Christ has accomplished (and is accomplishing) on their behalf. Their identity as a ’chosen’ people is affirmed programmatically in the address (1 Peter 1:1-2) and confirmed in the concluding pronouncements of 1 Peter 2:9-10 so as to form an inclusio. More broadly, there is an inclusion between the emphasis on the identity of Christians in the first section (1 Peter 1:1-12) and last section (1 Peter 2:1-10) of part one. In the first section, they are ’chosen’ as heirs of divine salvation, while in the last their election is confirmed by the metaphor of priesthood." [Note: Michaels, p. xxxiv.]
Peter began the body of this epistle by reminding his readers of their identity as Christians. He did this to enable them to rejoice in the midst of present suffering. They could do this since they would ultimately experience glorification. The tone of this entire epistle is warm, pastoral, and full of encouragement. In it Peter partially fulfilled Jesus’ instructions to him to "tend (shepherd) my [Jesus’] lambs . . . sheep" (John 21:15-17).
A. Our great salvation 1:3-12
The first part of this section on who we are as Christians is a revelation of our great salvation. Some have called it "the Great Doxology." In it Peter reminded us of our hope, our joy, and the witnesses of our salvation. He did this so we would appreciate how greatly God has blessed us.
As the Israelites anticipated their inheritance, the Promised Land, so Christians should anticipate ours, the other side of the grave. However ours is not subject to destruction from any source, defilement from without, or decay from within. Peter played with words when he described three characteristics of our inheritance. Each Greek word begins with the same letter and ends with the same syllable: imperisable (aphtharton), undefiled (amianton), and unfading (amaranton). No one can ravage or pollute our inheritance, and it will not wear out or waste away. What is it exactly? Our inheritance is Jesus Christ Himself and the blessings that He has promised us (cf. 1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:4; Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:11; Romans 8:18-23). All Christians will not obtain the same amount of inheritance (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Matthew 25:14-30; et al.), but every Christian will obtain much inheritance. Heaven will be the portion of all, but rewards will vary (1 Corinthians 3:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 John 1:8).
The idea of serving Jesus Christ faithfully to receive a reward is distasteful to some Christians because such service may flow from selfish motives. However selfishness is not the only possible motive. For example, two students could study hard to finish seminary with good records. One might do so to obtain a diploma with a "highest honor" stamp so he could hang it on his wall for all to see and admire. The other might do so to prepare to serve his Savior most effectively after graduation with no thought of broadcasting his honor. The Christian who serves Jesus Christ faithfully now so the Lord may entrust him with significant service opportunities in His coming kingdom may not be trying to earn rewards for his own glory. He may serve now so he can better glorify his Lord in the future. The present life is a training period designed to ready us for future service in our Lord’s earthly millennial and heavenly eternal kingdoms (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13; Luke 19:11-27; Romans 8:16-18).
Not only is God protecting our inheritance, but He is also protecting us by His power. All Christians will undoubtedly obtain an eternal inheritance one day (cf. Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 1:8). Our faith in Christ for salvation is, on the human side, what guarantees our final realization of the fullness of our salvation (i.e., our glorification). Peter was not saying our faith keeps us saved. He said God’s power keeps us saved. Our faith is the means by which we receive salvation initially and, therefore, our inheritance.
Some Christians (mainly in the Reformed tradition) believe this verse teaches that true Christians will inevitably continue in the faith, that they will never abandon Christianity or stop believing that Jesus is the Christ. They view the faith referred to in this verse as ongoing faith rather than initial faith. One advocate of this view wrote the following.
"Those who have true faith can lose that faith neither totally nor finally." [Note: Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, p. 234. See also John MacArthur, Faith Works, pp. 175-92.]
I do not believe the apostle meant that the elect will inevitably continue in faith, namely, continue to believe the truths of the gospel. Paul warned that Christians can stop believing the truth (e.g., 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:17-18). Rather Peter meant that God’s power keeps believers saved in spite of their sins because we have placed saving faith in Christ in the past. In this sense we never lose our faith.
There is much misunderstanding about the Bible’s teaching concerning the perseverance of the saints. Joseph Dillow has the most helpful and biblically consistent discussion of perseverance that I have found. [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings. See his Subject Index for his many references to it.] Scripture does not teach that Christians will inevitably continue to persevere in the faith, that is, continue believing the truth, walking with the Lord, or doing good works. It does teach that God will persevere in His commitment to bring all who have trusted in Him to heaven. If someone asks me if I believe in the perseverance of the saints, I ask him what he means by the perseverance of the saints. If he means that a believer is eternally secure, I say that I believe that. If he means that a believer will inevitably continue to believe the truth or follow God faithfully to the end of his or her life, even with occasional lapses, I say I do not believe that.
The salvation ready to be revealed in the last time is the aspect of salvation that we have yet to enjoy, namely, our glorification. When God glorifies us, He will save us from the presence of sin forever. This will happen when we see our Savior and are from then on with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This glorification will become ours at death or the Rapture, whichever event comes first.
"Every preparation for the final unveiling of this salvation is completed." [Note: Davids, p. 54.]
Salvation is the subject of 1 Peter 1:3 to 1 Peter 2:10. Note the recurrence of the word "salvation" (Gr. soteria) in 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:9-10, and 1 Peter 2:2. Peter referred primarily to the future aspect of our salvation in this epistle, namely, our glorification.
We can rejoice greatly in this hope. However, the antecedent of "this" may be "the last time" (1 Peter 1:5). Peter’s idea would then be that we will rejoice on that future day whereas now we experience various distressing trials. God will preserve both us and our inheritance until we receive our inheritance. "Trials" (Gr. peirasmois, the same kind of trials James wrote about in James 1:2, et al.) are all kinds of tests that challenge our fidelity to God’s will.
"Peirasmos here means not the inner wrestling with evil inclination, but undeserved sufferings from outside the person who is distressed by them." [Note: Bigg, p. 103.]
Peter was not denying that we face temptation from within, but he was addressing temptations from external sources particularly. [Note: See Gordon E. Kirk, "Endurance in Suffering in 1 Peter," Bibliotheca Sacra 138:549 (January-March 1981):46-56, for a good brief summary of Peter’s teaching on suffering in this epistle.]
In comparison with the eternal bliss ahead, our present distresses are only temporary and brief (cf. Matthew 5:4-5; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Trials are necessary for the Christian. God uses them to perfect us (cf. James 1:3-4). However they tend to rob us of joy if we do not remember what Peter urged his readers to bear in mind here (cf. James 1:2).
2. The joy of our salvation 1:6-9
"The main thread of Peter’s rhetoric [in this pericope] can . . . be expressed in one sentence: ’Then you will rejoice with inexpressible and glorious delight, when you each receive the outcome of your faith, your final salvation’ . . ." [Note: Michaels, p. 26.]
Trials do to faith what fire does to gold. They purify it and show it to be what it really is (cf. James 1:3). Peter anticipated his readers would respond to their trials properly. God purifies our faith with trials by helping us realize the inadequacy of anything but trust in Him in these situations. He shows that our faith is genuine by demonstrating that our joy in trials rests solely on confidence in Him and His promises. Both results bring praise, glory, and honor to God ultimately, though they also benefit us.
"Glory is never said to be the possession of humans except as we share God’s glory in the parousia (e.g., Romans 8:17; Colossians 3:4), although we contribute to this glory by our actions now (1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 1:12)." [Note: Davids, p. 58.]
The Greek word parousia means "presence" and, specifically, the presence of one coming, hence the coming of Christ. The "revelation" (uncovering, appearing, Gr. apokalypsis) of Jesus Christ to Christians will take place at the Rapture, and His revelation to the world will take place at the Second Coming. Both events seen as a whole seem to be in view here (cf. 1 Peter 1:13). Peter’s emphasis was not on when this would happen relative to other events yet future but on the fact that it would happen in the future rather than now.
Even though we will experience joy when we see the Lord, we can experience joy now too because we have hope (1 Peter 1:3), faith (1 Peter 1:7), and love (1 Peter 1:8). These characteristics are inseparable. Our joy is "full of glory" in that the glory people will see when God reveals Jesus Christ infuses our present joy (cf. John 20:29). Our joy will be no different on that day, only greater.
Ultimately we will obtain the full salvation of our souls (i.e., glorification, though not necessarily exemption from physical suffering and death now). The Greek word translated "souls" (psychon) refers to our persons, namely, the whole beings God has saved (cf. Mark 3:4; Mark 8:34-37; Romans 13:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; James 1:21; James 5:20; et al.). [Note: See Bigg, p. 107.] A better translation would be "selves" or "lives." Peter probably did not intend a contrast with our bodies. [Note: Edwin A. Blum, "1 Peter," in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 221.] This is part of the reason we experience joy in present trials as well. Since our salvation comes by faith it is only consistent that we should continue to trust God now. Our salvation is still in process. [Note: See Dillow, pp. 119-22.]
To summarize this first major section so far (1 Peter 1:3-9), Peter called on his readers to rejoice in their present sufferings because of their hope, faith, and love. They had certain hope in the future appearing of Jesus Christ and in their final glorification. They had faith in God’s dealings with them presently, namely, allowing them to undergo trials, and they had love for Jesus Christ for what He had already done for them in the past. It does not matter if we look forward, around us, or backward. We can find grounds for rejoicing wherever we look even as we suffer.
Salvation is the major concept that Peter discussed. He wanted his readers to remember that it included suffering as well as glory. The Old Testament prophets had predicted that Messiah would experience both suffering and glory (e.g., Isaiah 61:1-3). However, they did not understand how His suffering and glory would fit together. It is possible to understand that mystery only after Jesus’ earthly ministry.
"He [Peter], who wanted to hear nothing of it [Christ’s sufferings] during the lifetime of Jesus, made Jesus’ suffering and death the very centre of his explanation of Jesus’ earthly work." [Note: Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, p. 74.]
Many Christians do not realize that God intended our experience to include both suffering and glory.
The title "Spirit of Christ" occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in Romans 8:9. In both places it probably signifies not only that the Spirit came from Christ but also that He witnesses to Christ as His representative (cf. John 15:26-27). Peter was stressing the Spirit’s witness to Christ in the Old Testament rather than the preexistence of Christ. [Note: Davids, p. 62.]
Some interpreters have seen the phrase "the grace that would come to you" (1 Peter 1:10) as a reference to the salvation of Gentiles. The Old Testament prophets predicted this, too (e.g., Isaiah 52:15). Peter’s original audience was probably predominantly Gentile groups of Christians. It seems more likely, however, that Peter was not referring exclusively to prophecy about Gentile salvation. He seems to have been referring to the grace God promised to bestow on believers generally, including Gentile salvation, about which he had been speaking in 1 Peter 1:3-9.
These verses clearly distinguish, by the way, between the divine author and the human writers of Scripture. The prophets were not merely religious geniuses. They were people through whom God spoke (2 Peter 1:21). At times they knew that they did not fully comprehend what they were communicating. At other times they probably thought they understood but did not completely realize the full significance of what they communicated (cf. Daniel 9; Daniel 12:5-13; Habakkuk 2:1-4). They did not know the time when many Messianic prophecies would be fulfilled either.
3. The Witnesses of Our Salvation 1:10-12
Peter reminded his readers that the prophets had predicted that Jesus Christ’s life, as their own lives, would include suffering followed by glory. He mentioned this to encourage them to realize that their experience of suffering for their commitment to follow God faithfully was not abnormal.
"To the elaborated and elevated declaration of his eschatological vision in 1 Peter 1:6-9, Peter now adds an explanatory postscript in a more didactic style. He pauses to measure the greatness of the salvation mentioned in 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:9 with a brief but wide-ranging reflection on the past and present. The curiosity of ’prophets’ (1 Peter 1:10) and ’angels’ (1 Peter 1:12) underscores the mystery of the divine plan: God in his sovereignty has long kept secret the salvation soon to be revealed to his chosen ones (cf. Ephesians 3:4-6)." [Note: Michaels, p. 38.]
These verses reveal a chiastic structure centering on the idea that God clarified what had formerly been unclear to the prophets.
The prophets did understand, however, that God would not fulfill all of their inspired revelations in their own days but in the future. God had fulfilled the prophecies about Messiah’s sufferings in Peter’s day, but He had not fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah’s glorification yet. Even the angels are waiting to see how and exactly when God will fulfill them (cf. Hebrews 1:5 to Hebrews 2:18).
The Holy Spirit has a ministry of illumination as well as inspiration. He enables others to understand God’s revelation as preachers explain it and, of course, as they hear it in other ways.
Peter’s point in 1 Peter 1:10-12 seems to be that his readers could rejoice in their sufferings even though they could not see exactly how or when their present trials would end. The readers should find encouragement by looking at the prophets’ limited understanding of their own prophecies dealing with the suffering and glorification of Messiah. God would bring their own experiences to a glorious completion just as He would Messiah’s, though in both cases the details of fulfillment were not yet clear.
"Therefore" ties in with everything Peter had explained thus far (1 Peter 1:3-12). He said in effect, Now that you have focused your thinking positively you need to roll up your sleeves mentally, pull yourselves together, and adopt some attitudes that will affect your activities.
". . . the thought is: ’Make up your mind decisively!’" [Note: Lenski, p. 51.]
"The English phrase ’pull yourselves together’ would express the meaning." [Note: Selwyn, p. 139.]
"In Israel an ordinary person wore as the basic garment a long, sleeveless shirt of linen or wool that reached to the knees or ankles. Over this mantle something like a poncho might be worn, although the mantle was laid aside for work. The shirt was worn long for ceremonial occasions or when at relative rest, such as talking in the market, but for active service, such as work or war, it was tucked up into a belt at the waist to leave the legs free (1 Kings 18:46; Jeremiah 1:17; Luke 17:8; John 21:18; Acts 12:8). Thus Peter’s allusion pictures a mind prepared for active work." [Note: Davids, p. 66. Cf. Exodus 12:11 LXX.]
Sober of spirit describes a Christian who is in full control of his speech and conduct in contrast to one who allows his flesh (i.e., his sinful human nature) to govern him.
The main duty, however, is to become conscious of the culmination of our hope when Christ returns (cf. 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 4:3; Titus 2:10-13). When we do this, present trials will not deflect us from obeying God faithfully now. In other words, Peter urged his readers to face their daily trials with a specific attitude clearly and constantly in mind. We should remember that what God will give us soon as a reward for our faithful commitment to Him is worth any sacrifice now (cf. Romans 8:18).
1. A life of holiness 1:13-16
B. Our New Way of Life 1:13-25
Peter wanted his readers to live joyfully in the midst of sufferings. Consequently he outlined his readers’ major responsibilities to enable them to see their duty clearly so they could carry it out. These responsibilities were their duties to God, to other believers, and to the world.
The first sub-section of this epistle (1 Peter 1:3-12) stressed walking in hope. The second sub-section (1 Peter 1:13-25) emphasizes walking in holiness, reverence, and love. Peter held out several incentives to encourage his suffering readers to walk appropriately: God’s glory (1 Peter 1:13), God’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-15), God’s Word (1 Peter 1:16), God’s judgment (1 Peter 1:17), and God’s love (1 Peter 1:18-21). [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:395.] Peter presented the believer’s duty to God as consisting of three things: a correct perspective, correct behavior, and a correct attitude.
A better translation of "obedient children" might be "children whose spirit is obedience." Negatively we should stop letting our sinful passions dominate and control us (cf. Romans 12:2). Self-indulgence is characteristic of those who are ignorant of God. Practically this involves saying no to the flesh.
The fact that Peter said that his readers had lived in "ignorance" identifies them for the first time explicitly as Gentile Christians (cf. Acts 17:23; Acts 17:30; Ephesians 4:18). The Jews were not ignorant of the importance of abstaining from fleshly lusts since their Scriptures informed them.
Positively we should emulate our holy God who called us to be holy and to be holy in all our behavior: thoughts, words, and deeds (cf. 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Peter 5:10; Mark 1:17). Holy means set apart from sin to God. We are to strive after sinless living, namely, purity. Peter was not implying that his readers had been living unholy lives but that holiness should mark them.
This verse contains the first use of a key word in 1 Peter: "behavior" (Gr. anastrophe; cf. 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1-2; 1 Peter 3:16). Other frequently recurring words include "bear up" (Gr. pascho; cf. 1 Peter 2:19-21; 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 3:17-18; 1 Peter 4:1 [twice], 15, 19; 1 Peter 5:10), "submit" (Gr. hypotasso; cf. 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5; 1 Peter 3:22; 1 Peter 5:5), and "do right" (Gr. agathopoieo; cf. 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:6; 1 Peter 3:17). Taken together these words indicate one of this epistle’s distinctive emphases, namely, the importance of bearing up submissively and practicing good deeds while enduring persecution for one’s faith.
Peter reinforced this imperative with an Old Testament quotation (cf. Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7).
"When it comes to the use of the OT, 1 Peter stands out among the NT letters, especially when one compares the number of citations and allusions to the length of the letter. 1 Peter contains about the same number of OT references per unit of text as does Hebrews. Only Revelation contains more." [Note: Davids, p. 24.]
The writer just quoted listed nine citations of Old Testament passages in 1 Peter and 20 allusions to Old Testament passages.
In the context, Israel was to be holy so she could have intimate fellowship with God. We cannot expect to enjoy intimate fellowship with God who is holy unless we are holy too. Intimate fellowship with God is the greatest good human beings can experience (cf. Philippians 3:8), but without holiness it is impossible.
"The Word reveals God’s mind, so we should learn it; God’s heart, so we should love it; God’s will, so we should live it. Our whole being-mind, will, and heart-should be controlled by the Word of God. . . .
"We do not study the Bible just to get to know the Bible. We study the Bible that we might get to know God better. Too many earnest Bible students are content with outlines and explanations, and do not really get to know God. It is good to know the Word of God, but this should help us better know the God of the Word." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:397.]
"If" means "since" here (a first class condition in Greek). We do call on God as our Father because He is our Father (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Nevertheless He is also the Judge of all, and He judges impartially, not on the basis of appearances but on the basis of reality. Since we must all stand before God for an evaluation of our works, we should live now accordingly (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
"Each of us will give an account of his works, and each will receive the appropriate reward. This is a ’family judgment,’ the Father dealing with His beloved children. The Greek word translated judgeth carries the meaning ’to judge in order to find something good.’" [Note: Wiersbe, 2:397.]
It is good for us to maintain respect (fear) for God as our Judge since He has this power over us (cf. Hebrews 12:29). Again Peter reminded us that our earthly life of trials and suffering is only a brief sojourn.
2. A life of reverence 1:17-21
Peter continued the exposition of the Leviticus commands to be holy because Yahweh is holy that he began in 1 Peter 1:16.
"Peter’s point is that if he and his readers have a special relationship to God by virtue of their calling and their new birth, then it is all the more urgent that they remember who he is in himself, and display the reverence that God deserves." [Note: Michaels, p. 60.]
The Greek word for "redeemed" (elytrothete) means to ransom, to free by paying a price (cf. Mark 10:45; Luke 24:21; Titus 2:14).
"He [Peter] has some of the most noteworthy statements in the New Testament about the atoning value of Christ’s suffering." [Note: Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, p. 319. See 1:1-3, 18-25; 2:21-25; 3:18; 4:1, and Frederic R. Howe, "The Cross of Christ in Peter’s Theology," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:626 (April-June 2000):190-99.]
"Any representative first-century church would have three kinds of members: slaves, freemen [those who had never been slaves], and freed men. People became slaves in various ways-through war, bankruptcy, sale by themselves, sale by parents, or by birth. Slaves normally could look forward to freedom after a certain period of service and often after the payment of a price. Money to buy his freedom could be earned by the slave in his spare time or by doing more than his owner required. Often the price could be provided by someone else. By the payment of a price (lytron, antilytron), a person could be set free from his bondage or servitude. A freed man was a person who formerly had been a slave but was now redeemed." [Note: Blum, pp. 224-25.]
As the death of the Passover lamb liberated the Israelites from physical bondage in Egypt, so the death of Jesus Christ frees us from the spiritual bondage of sin (cf. Exodus 12:5). In speaking of redemption Peter always emphasized our freedom from a previously sinful lifestyle to live a changed life here and now. [Note: Douglas W. Kennard, "Peterine Redemption: Its Meaning and Extent," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30:4 (December 1987):399-405.] Jesus Christ’s life, represented by the blood, is of infinitely greater value than any mere metal, as precious as that metal may be (cf. Acts 3:6; Acts 8:20). "Futile" means vain or powerless, and it suggests that many of Peter’s readers were indeed Gentiles. We would normally expect this in view of where they lived (1 Peter 1:1). This word better describes the lifestyle of an unsaved Gentile than that of an unsaved Jew (cf. 1 Peter 1:14).
The Fall did not take God by surprise. He already knew what He would do in view of it and Who would do it. We have two good reasons why we can come to God: what Christ did for us, and what God did for Christ for what Christ did for us. Our attitude toward God, therefore, can and should be both reverential (1 Peter 1:17) and confident as we endure suffering for our faith.
So far ". . . the ethical impact of the epistle barely begins to make itself felt. The call to action and to a holy and reverent life is general rather than specific. The imperatives of hope and of godly fear have more to do with eschatological expectations than with ethics, and more to do with the readers’ relationship to God than with their relationships to each other or to their pagan neighbors." [Note: Michaels, p. 71.]
"At this point ends what we may call the doctrinal section of the Epistle. St. Peter has been explaining the three Names [i.e., Jesus Christ, God, and Holy Spirit], their three attributes, and their several relations. Here he passes to the practical Christian life, catching up and expounding the words hagiasmos [sanctification], anagennan [born again]." [Note: Bigg, p. 122.]
The purification to which Peter referred occurred at conversion as a result of believing the gospel (cf. John 13:10). This cleansing made it possible for us to love other Christians unremittingly (Gr. ektenos). Now Peter urged his readers to do everything out of love for the brethren. We do not need to love one another as though we were brethren. We can love one another because we really are brethren.
3. A life of love 1:22-25
Peter next turned his attention from the believer’s duty to God to the believer’s duty to his or her Christian brethren. He did so to explain further the implications of living joyfully during trials and suffering. He returned to what he set out to do in 1 Peter 1:13, namely, to spell out the implications of Christian faith and hope. However, he continued to reflect on the theological basis of our ethical responsibilities. He would get into practical Christian ethics later. Obedience to the truth produces a sincere love for the brethren (1 Peter 1:22-25), repentance from sin (1 Peter 2:1), and a desire for spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2). [Note: Roger M. Raymer, "1 Peter," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 844.]
The Word of God is the instrument God uses to produce new birth (cf. Matthew 13:20; Luke 8:11). This "seed" shares the character of its Source. It never passes out of fashion nor does it become irrelevant.
"All the way from the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, to ’Babylon the Great’ in Revelation 17-18, man’s great attempts at unity are destined to fail.
"If we try to build unity in the church on the basis of our first birth, we will fail; but if we build unity on the basis of the new birth, it will succeed." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:399.]
This quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8 contrasts the transitory character of nature and the eternality of God’s Word (cf. James 1:10-11). Every natural thing eventually dies and disappears, the opposite of God’s living and abiding Word (cf. Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). The seed lives and abides, and so do those to whom it gives new life.
"My friend, we need the preaching and the teaching of the Word of God above everything else. I do not mean to minimize the place of music, the place of methods, and the place of organization, but there is absolutely no substitute for the Word of God today." [Note: J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5:687.]
The duty of Christians to one another then is to love one another unremittingly. This is true even of Christians who are suffering for their commitment to follow God faithfully. We can and should do so because we are genuine brethren and because we will abide forever.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28