Book 21 - PETER'S FIRST
TO ASIA MINOR
With people, places, definitions, map ......
Writer: The Apostle Peter, dictating to Silvanus (otherwise known as Silas) as his secretary
Date: c AD64, some time before Peter's execution
Where written: Rome, symbolically "Babylon" (1 Peter 5:13)
Readers: The churches of Asia Minor - present-day Turkey, with their largely Jewish, but also Gentile membership
Why: To encourage the church members as they experience apparently undeserved trials and suffering. Also to provide practical advice on relations with the civil authorities, and within society and families
According to Some Modern Scholarship: Written by followers of Peter after his death
Map - Peter Writes his First Letter, to the Christian Jews of most of Asia Minor
Map Key: Letter from 1 to 2
GREETINGS; BEARING TRIALS WITH JOY
GREETINGS; BECAUSE CHRIST HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD, WE HAVE BEEN BORN AGAIN
1 Peter 1:1-5 - Peter, messenger (or apostle) of Jesus Christ, sends this letter to the exiles of the dispersed tribes (in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia - comprising nearly all of Asia Minor), whom God the Father knew and chose long ago to be made holy by his Spirit, that they might obey Jesus Christ and be cleansed by his blood: may you know more and more of God's grace and peace.
Your faith is being tested, but your future is magnificent
Thank God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in his great mercy we men have been born again into a life full of hope, through Christ's rising again from the dead! You can now hope for a perfect inheritance beyond the reach of change and decay, "reserved" in Heaven for you. And in the meantime you are guarded by the power of God operating through your faith, till you enter fully into the salvation which is all ready for the dénouement (outcome or result) of the last day.
WE HAVE EVERY REASON FOR REJOICING IN SPITE OF OUR TRIALS
1 Peter 1:6-9 - This means tremendous joy to you, I know, even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations (... probably as Christian families by the local people). This is no accident - it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire. This proving of your faith is planned to bring you praise and honour and glory in the day when Jesus Christ reveals himself (at his second coming). And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him - the salvation of your own souls.
OUR RELATIONS WITH GOD
CHRISTIANS CAN KNOW MORE THAN THE PROPHETS OR ANGELS EVER DID OR COULD OF GOD'S MYSTERIES
1 Peter 1:10-12 - The prophets of old did their utmost to discover and obtain this salvation. They did not find it, but they prophesied of this grace that has now come to you. They tried hard to discover to what time and to what sort of circumstances the Spirit of Christ working in them was referring. For he (the Spirit of Christ) foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them. It was then made clear to them (the prophets) that they were dealing with matters not meant for themselves, but for you (Christians). It is these very matters which have been made plain to you by those who preached the Gospel to you by the same Spirit sent from Heaven - and these are facts to command the interest of the very angels!
LIVE HOLY LIVES ACCORDINGLY
1 Peter 1:13-16 - So brace up your minds, and, as men who know what they are doing, rest the full weight of your hopes on the grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ reveals himself. Live as obedient children before God. Don't let your character be moulded by the desires of your ignorant days (... before you knew Christ), but be holy in every department of your lives, for the one (God) who has called you is himself holy. The scripture says:
'Be holy, for I am holy' (Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7).
THE ETERNAL CHRIST DIED THAT YOU MAY LIVE IN HOLINESS
1 Peter 1:17-21 - If you pray to a Father who judges men by their actions without the slightest favouritism, then you should spend the time of your stay here on earth with reverent fear. For you must realise all the time that you have been "ransomed" (as a slave may be freed) from the futile way of living passed on to you by your fathers' traditions, not with some money payment of transient value, but by the costly shedding of blood. The price was in fact the life-blood of Christ (on the cross), the unblemished and unstained lamb of sacrifice. It is true that God chose him to fulfil this part before the world was founded, but it was for your benefit that he was revealed in these last days - for you who found your faith in God through Christ. And God raised him from the dead and gave him unimaginable splendour, so that all your faith and hope might be centred in God.
LOVE EACH OTHER BECAUSE YOU ARE SONS OF GOD; DO AWAY WITH ALL EVIL
1 Peter 1:22-2:3 - Now that you have, by obeying the truth, made your souls clean enough for a genuine love of your fellows, see that you do love each other, fervently and from the heart. For you are the sons of God now; the live, permanent Word of the living God has given you his own indestructible heredity. It is true that:
'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 for ever' (Isaiah 40:6-8).
The Word referred to, as far as you are concerned, is the message of the Gospel that was preached to you.
(Chapter 2 ....) Have done, then, with all evil and deceit, all pretence and jealousy and slander. You are babies, new-born in God's family, and you should be crying out for unadulterated spiritual milk to make you grow up to salvation! And so you will, if you have already tasted the goodness of the Lord.
YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD AS A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD TO BECOME THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
1 Peter 2:4-10 - To change the metaphor, you come to him (Jesus Christ), as living stones to the immensely valuable living stone (which men rejected but God chose), to be built up into a spiritual House of God, in which you, like holy priests, can offer those spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. There is a passage to this effect in scripture, and it runs like this:
'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on him will by no means be put to shame' (Isaiah 28:16).
It is you who believe in him that he is "precious", but to those who disobey God, it is true that:
'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone' (Psalm 118:22).
And he is, to them,
'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence' (Isaiah 8:14).
Yes, they (who will not believe in Jesus) stumble at the Word of God for in their hearts they are unwilling to obey it - which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion. But you are God's "chosen generation", his "royal priesthood", his "holy nation", his "peculiar people" - all the old titles of God's people (previously only given to the Jewish nation) now belong to you (Jew and Gentile). It is for you now to demonstrate the goodness of him who has called you out of darkness into his amazing light. In the past you (Jew and Gentile) were not "a people" at all: now you are the people of God. In the past you had no experience of his mercy, but now it is intimately yours.
CIVIL, SOCIAL AND FAMILY RELATIONS
1 Peter 2:11 - I (Paul) beg you, as those whom I love, to live in this world as strangers and "temporary residents", to keep clear of the desires of your lower natures, for they are always at war with your souls.
WITNESSES TO CHRIST
1 Peter 2:12 - Your conduct among the surrounding peoples in your different countries should always be good and right, so that although they may in the usual way slander you as evil-doers yet when disasters come, they may glorify God when they see how well you conduct yourselves.
1 Peter 2:13-17 - Obey every man-made authority for the Lord's sake - whether it is the emperor, as the supreme ruler, or the governors whom he has appointed to punish evil-doers and reward those who do good service. It is the will of God that you may thus silence the ill-informed criticisms of the foolish. As free men you should never use your freedom as an excuse for doing something that is wrong, for you are at all times the servants of God. You should have respect for everyone, you should love our brotherhood, fear God and honour the emperor.
1 Peter 2:18-20 - You who are servants (employees) should submit to your masters (employers) with proper respect - not only to the good and kind, but also to the difficult. A man does something valuable when he endures pain, as in the sight of God, though he knows he is suffering unjustly. After all, it is no credit to you if you are patient in bearing a punishment which you have richly deserved! But if you do your duty and are punished for it and can still accept it patiently, you are doing something worthwhile in God's sight
TRIALS OF LIFE
1 Peter 2:21-25 - (Being punished even when in the right) is part of your calling. For Christ suffered for you and left you a personal example, and wants you to follow in his steps. 'Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth'. Yet when he was insulted he offered no insult in return. When he suffered he made no threats of revenge. He simply committed his cause to the one (God) who judges fairly. And he personally bore our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all that is good. It was the suffering that he bore which has healed you. You had wandered away like so many sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 3:1-6 - In the same spirit (as Christ) you married women should adapt yourselves to your husbands, so that even if they do not obey the Word of God they may be won to God without any word being spoken, simply by seeing the pure and reverent behaviour of you, their wives. Your beauty should not be dependent on an elaborate coiffure, or on the wearing of jewellery or fine clothes, but on the inner personality - the unfading loveliness of a calm and gentle spirit, a thing very precious in the eyes of God. This was the secret of the beauty of the holy women of ancient times who trusted in God and were submissive to their husbands. Sara (or Sarah - Genesis chapters 12-23), you will remember, obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. And you have become, as it were, her true descendants today as long as you too live good lives and do not give way to hysterical fears.
HUSBANDS, also PRAYER
1 Peter 3:7 - Similarly, (as wives should honour their husbands, so ....) you husbands should try to understand the wives you live with, honouring them as physically weaker yet equally heirs with you of the grace of eternal life. If you don't do this, you will find it impossible to pray properly.
1 Peter 3:8-12 - To sum up, you should all be of one mind living like brothers with true love and sympathy for each other, generous and courteous at all times. Never pay back a bad turn with a bad turn or an insult with another insult, but on the contrary pay back with good. For this is your calling - to do good and one day to inherit all the goodness of God. For: 'He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile: let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil'.
NOW BE PREPARED TO SUFFER PATIENTLY YOURSELVES
1 Peter 3:13-22 - After all, who in the ordinary way is likely to injure you for being enthusiastic for good? And if it should happen that you suffer "for righteousness' sake", that is a privilege. You need neither fear their threats nor worry about them (who persecute you); simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. Make sure that your conscience is perfectly clear, so that if men should speak slanderously of you as rogues they may come to feel ashamed of themselves for libelling your good Christian behaviour.
If it is the will of God that you should suffer it is really better to suffer unjustly than because you have deserved it. Remember that Christ the just suffered for us the unjust, to bring us to God. That meant the death of his body, but he came to life again in the spirit. It was in the spirit that he went and preached to the imprisoned souls of those who had been disobedient in the days of Noah - the days of God's great patience during the period of the building of the ark, in which eventually only eight souls were saved in the flood. ...
- A difficult passage to interpret, but one perhaps suggesting that between his death and resurrection, Christ preached to the dead. Noah's ark and the flood also help to introduce the significance of water in baptism -
... And I cannot help pointing out what a perfect illustration this is of the way you have been admitted to the safety of the Christian "ark" by baptism, which means, of course, far more than the mere washing of a dirty body: it means the ability to face God with a clear conscience. For there is in every true baptism the virtue of Christ's rising from the dead. And he has now entered Heaven and is at God's right hand, with all angels, authorities and powers subservient to him.
LIVE TO OBEY GOD
1 Peter 4:1-6 - Since Christ had to suffer physically for you, you must fortify yourselves with the same inner attitude that he must have had. You must realise that to be dead to sin inevitably means pain, and you should not therefore spend the rest of your time here on earth indulging your physical nature, but in doing the will of God. Our past life may have been good enough for pagan purposes, though it meant sensuality, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousals and worshipping forbidden gods. Indeed your former companions may think it very queer that you will no longer join with them in their riotous excesses, and accordingly say all sorts of unpleasant things about you. Don't worry: they are the ones who will have to explain their behaviour before the one (Jesus Christ) who is prepared to judge all men, whether living or dead. (For that is why the dead also had the Gospel preached to them - that it might judge the lives they lived as men and give them also the opportunity to share the eternal life of God in the spirit - possibly referring back to the verses above about "the imprisoned souls" in the time of Noah.)
1 Peter 4:7 - We are near the end of all things now, and you should therefore be calm, self-controlled men of prayer.
1 Peter 4:8 - Above everything else be sure that you have real deep love for each other, remembering how 'love will cover a multitude of sins'.
1 Peter 4:9 - Be hospitable to each other without secretly wishing you hadn't got to be!
TALENTS and ABILITIES
1 Peter 4:10-11 - Serve one another with the particular gifts God has given each of you, as faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God. If any of you is a preacher then he should preach his message as from God. And in whatever way a man serves the Church he should do it recognising the fact that God gives him his ability, so that God may be glorified in everything through Jesus Christ. To him belong praise and power for ever, amen!
WHEN YOU DO GOD'S WILL, BEAR YOUR SUFFERING AS CHRIST DID
1 Peter 4:12-19 - And now dear friends of mine. I beg you not to be unduly alarmed at the fiery ordeals which come to test your faith, as though this were some abnormal experience. You should be glad, because it means that you are called to share Christ's sufferings. One day, when he shows himself in full splendour to men, you will be filled with the most tremendous joy. If you are reproached for being Christ's followers, that is a great privilege, for you can be sure that God's Spirit of glory is resting upon you. But take care that none of your number suffers as a murderer, or a thief, a rogue or a spy! If he suffers as a Christian he has nothing to be ashamed of and may glorify God in Christ's name.
The time has evidently arrived for God's judgment to begin, and it is beginning at his own House. And if it starts with us, what is it going to mean to those who refuse to obey the Gospel of God? 'If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?'.
And if it is true that we are living in a time of judgment, then those who suffer according to God's will can only commit their souls to their faithful creator, and go on doing all the good they can.
1 Peter 5:1-4 - Now may I (the apostle Peter) who am myself an elder say a word to you my fellow-elders? I speak as one who actually saw Christ suffer, and as one who will share with you the glories that are to be unfolded to us. I urge you then to see that your "flock of God" is properly fed and cared for. Accept the responsibility of looking after them willingly and not because you feel you can't get out of it, doing your work not for what you can make, but because you are really concerned for their well-being. You should aim not at being "little tin gods" but as examples of Christian living in the eyes of the flock committed to your charge. And then, when the chief shepherd reveals himself, you will receive that crown of glory which cannot fade.
1 Peter 5:5 - You younger members must ... submit to the elders. Indeed all of you should defer to one another and wear (or clothe yourself with) the "overall" of humility in serving each other. 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble'.
1 Peter 5:6-7 - So, humble yourselves under God's strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.
SPIRITUAL WARFARE - THROUGH CHRIST, GOD WILL RESTORE AND CARRY YOU
1 Peter 5:8-11 - Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendour through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his for ever and ever, amen!
FAREWELLS AND BLESSINGS
1 Peter 5:12-14 - I am sending this short letter by Silvanus (or Silas; Paul's companion on his Second Missionary Journey, and now Peter's secretary), whom I know to be a faithful brother, to stimulate your faith and assure you that the above words represent the true grace of God. See that you stand fast in that grace!
Your sister-church here in "Babylon" (probably Rome) sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark (writer of the Second Gospel). Give each other a handshake all round as a sign of love.
Peace be to all true Christians.
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