Overview of 1 Peter
and Study of 1 Peter 1-5
December 21st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Overview of the 1st Letter from Peter

First Peter is a letter written by Peter, the Disciple of Jesus, whom Jesus called the rock. It was written around A.D. 67, after the first persecution of the Christians by the emperor Nero. Most of the other letters in the New Testament are addressed to a specific audience or specific group of churches, but this one is addressed to all of God’s people, including the Gentiles who had become Christians. It is an encouraging letter written in an endearing manner and has been labeled by one commentator as “one of the most moving pieces of persecution literature (1).” The Rock encourages his readers by explaining the eternal hope that we have in Jesus which can overcome any earthly suffering.

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Barclay, William, The Letters of James and Peter, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1960
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005
  • “Sermon Library,” Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT www.norotonchurch.org/sermons/min_sermons.html

1 Peter 1-5 (Marks of the Christian Life)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:13 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

Peter opens the letter by addressing all of the recipients as the chosen people – applying a term formerly reserved for the Jews, but now applying it to all believers in Christ. He follows with praise for God and gives thanks for the trials of the people, and notes that these trials help to refine their character. He also encourages the people to continue to have hope in Jesus.

In the second chapter, Peter tells the people what they must do to live a holy life and why they must do it. They have been chosen to be a priestly people, lights to the world:

    Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

    1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)

In chapter 3 Peter describes what Barclay calls the “Marks of the Christian Life (2)” that describe how the Christians should treat one another, beginning with husbands and wives and then addressing how all Christians should treat each other:

    Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

    -1 Peter 3:8-9 (KJV)

Peter follows this point with a quote from Psalm 34 and then discusses the importance of self-control and the blessings of the LORD on those who seek to do his will. There may be some suffering and trials, as he explains in the following section. He continues this theme throughout the remainder of the letter. He closes by advising the elders to be trustworthy shepherds and he advises the younger ones to listen to the elders.

Reflection and Application

Peter reminds us that each of has a role to play in our families and our churches. In 1 Peter 3:8-9 he gives us the Marks of the Christian Life, which can be summarized as unity, sympathy, compassion, and humility(3). Regardless of our position, we are to treat others with compassion and respect and must discipline ourselves to follow Christ and protect ourselves from attempted attacks by the enemy.

We should be prepared to endure suffering and trials. Few will be spared suffering of some type. On the contrary, Peter explains that our loyalty to God does not mean we will not face long-term hardship. Look at what Jesus went through on our behalf, allowing himself to be beaten and hung on the cross. Remember how Paul was also beaten, imprisoned, and run out of town. Read about contemporary martyrs who were loyal to their faith, even in the face of dictators, racists, and other evil people.

Our own sufferings may be more mild or subtle then these others, but we should welcome them as opportunities to be refined, in the same way that metal is refined in a blazing fire that removes all impurities. Both James and Peter use this type of reference because their audience would have related to it. How do we purify ourselves? Continue reading the Bible and doing what it says, pray continually, and forgive each other as God forgives us.

A recent survey indicated that "Silent Night" is tied with "Jingle Bells" for the most popular Christmas song. We draw near to Christmas and approach the longest night of the year amidst a backdrop of trouble in our world, praying for a quiet night of peace. We also give thanks for our Savior who was given to us and brings us eternal hope. In him, we find a Silent Night.

"Silent Night," performed by Chris Tomlin and Kristyn Getty

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What experiences have you had working with metal or watching metal workers?
    2. What purification analogy would be better suited for our era?
    3. What needs to be refined out of us today?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you can use our suffering for good. Help us to turn to you in times of grief and strife.

    Prayer Concern
    Iron Workers


    (1) Barclay, William, The Letters of James and Peter, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1960, p.164-165
    (2) Ibid, p. 268
    (3) Ibid, p. 269

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 Peter (Ladder of Virtues)

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