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- 1 Peter
by Henry Allen Ironside
First Peter - Introduction
“The Epistles of Peter were written primarily-in accord with his special ministry to the circumcision (Galatians 2:8)-to Christian Jews of the dispersion, who dwelt in various provinces in western Asia, where most of the Apostle’s labors had been. They have to do with the believer’s relation to the Kingdom of God rather than to the Church as the Body of Christ; though, of course, those to whom he wrote were, as are all Christians, members of the Church and subjects of the Kingdom. Both are wilderness Epistles; they contemplate the children of God, not in their heavenly aspect, as in Ephesians (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6), but rather as strangers and pilgrims journeying on through the wilderness of this world from the cross to the Glory. Peter tells us that he wrote the first Letter to testify that “this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand” (1 Peter 5:12). It is not so much the grace that saves (as in Romans 5:1-2), which gives us a perfect standing before the throne of God; it is rather the grace ministered to us day by day, which enables us to stand against all the wiles of the enemy and despite all the trials of the way. Suffering has a large place in the Epistle. It is looked upon as the normal thing for the believer while pressing on to the inheritance laid up for him in heaven. In this we are reminded of Savonarola’s words, “A Christian’s life consists in doing good and suffering evil.” He is to rejoice for the privilege of suffering for Him who has redeemed us with His own blood.
The mystery of suffering has perplexed many all down through the ages. It is part of man’s sad inheritance because of sin having come into the world, and in this life the child of God is not exempt from pain, sorrow, and anguish. But the suffering of believers is all ordained of God to work out for blessing. Through this ministry of suffering we are enabled to understand better what our Lord went through for us, when in this scene. He was “a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). God uses suffering to keep us from sin (1 Peter 4:1; 2 Corinthians 12:7), and as a means of chastening and discipline (Hebrews 12:6-11) whereby we are made more like our blessed Lord. As we suffer because of faithfulness to His name and devotion to His cause, we enjoy a very real sense of fellowship with Him, who is still hated by the world that rejects His testimony. The reward is sure and will make us forget all our light affliction in the enjoyment of the eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Christians are not exempt from suffering. When one trusts in Christ, it does not mean that he is at once freed from all the consequences of sin. So far as divine judgment is concerned, he is forever delivered from that (John 3:18, R.V.); but he is still in the body from which the Adamic curse has not yet been lifted. Consequently, he suffers with the groaning creation, of which that body is still a part. Then, in addition to this, he now finds that the world to which he once belonged, has now become a scene of hostility because of the place he has taken in association with a rejected Christ. All this involves suffering, but with every trial and affliction there will come needed grace to endure, “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
There is a difference between suffering with Christ (Romans 8:17) and suffering for Him (Acts 5:41). All Christians suffer with Him because of the very fact that they are partakers of the divine nature, and therefore are quick to feel the adverse conditions through which they are called to pass. But to suffer for Him is to bear shame and reproach-even unto persecution and death-for Christ’s Name’s sake (Acts 9:16).
The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2:0 that after consultation with the leaders at Jerusalem, some time subsequent to his conversion, it was arranged among them that Peter should go especially to the Jews and he to the Gentiles. It was not that either confined himself to one particular class, but He that wrought mightily in Peter to the conversion of the Jews wrought in the same way in Paul to bringing the men of the nations to Christ. In his Letters Peter still has particularly in view his brethren after the flesh-the dispersed of Israel-scattered among the nations and living in the countries mentioned in the opening verse of our lesson. These were Jews generally known as the Diaspora, who, while away from the land of Palestine, yet looked upon it as their native country, until they gave up their earthly standing to become members of a new and redeemed nation, whose inheritance was laid up in heaven. To them Peter wrote, encouraging them to trust in the Lord and go on in patience even in the midst of suffering. Of this he had much to say in his Letter. It is an Epistle for afflicted believers, for, while addressed primarily to Hebrew Christians, it was no more confined to them than Paul’s letters addressed to churches among the Gentiles are to be considered as only for those who, by nature, were strangers to the covenant of promise. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, so what is written to one is intended for the help and instruction of all those who are born again.
First Peter is characteristically a Wilderness Epistle. It pictures believers as journeying on from the place of the blood-sprinkling to the inheritance in heaven, or from the cross to the Glory. Many illustrations are drawn from Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan. In Ephesians, believers are viewed as already over the Jordan and in the Land, enjoying their inheritance in Christ in the heaven- lies; in First Peter, they are seen as a pilgrim people, strangers passing through an unfriendly world, moving on to the Land of Promise.
We are not able to decide exactly when First Peter was written, but it was evidently well on to the close of Peter’s life; and, as he himself connects the two Letters so intimately (2 Peter 3:1), they were probably not written very far apart. The date given by Ussher is A. D. 60, but there is no proof that it was as early as that. The best authorities suggest that the first Epistle was written somewhere about A. D. 66 or 67, and the second somewhat later. It is evident from 2 Peter 3:15-16 that all of Paul’s Epistles were in circulation already and recognized as Scripture before Peter wrote this second Letter, and we may conclude that the first one was not penned very much earlier.
This first Letter readily lends itself to the following outline:
In The Wilderness With God
Chapter One: (1 Peter 1:1-12.) The Trials of the Way. (1 Peter 1:13-25.) Redemption by Blood, and New Birth by the Word and Spirit of God.
Chapter Two: (1 Peter 2:1-10.) A New Nation. (1 Peter 2:11-25). The Pilgrim Character.
Chapter Three: (1 Peter 3:1-7). The Christian Family. (1 Peter 3:8-22). Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake.
Chapter Four: (1 Peter 4:1-11). The New Life Contrasted with the Old. (1 Peter 4:12-19). Suffering as a Christian.
Chapter Five: (1 Peter 5:1-4). The End of the Way. (1 Peter 5:5-14). Grace Operative on the Journey.
The following is a suggestive outline on the special theme of suffering:
Suffering as a trial of faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Christ’s predicted sufferings (1 Peter 1:11)
Suffering for conscience’ sake (1 Peter 2:19).
Christ’s suffering, our example (1 Peter 2:21-23)
Suffering for righteousness’ sake (1 Peter 3:14)
Christ suffered for our sins (1 Peter 3:18)
Suffering to cease from sin (1 Peter 4:1)
Partakers of Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:13)
Suffering as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16)
Suffering for a limited time (1 Peter 5:10)
the Sixth Week after Easter