What do you hope for most in this life?
In this lesson, we examine the first chapter of 1 Peter. The first several verses provide typical Greco-Roman letter features: Author, audience and their situation, a greeting, and a blessing from God.
How different are current letter-writing conventions from those Peter uses?
Before we examine the verses, a note about the author is necessary. Until the 1700s, there was no question that this Peter was the fisherman-turned-disciple of Jesus, the brother of Andrew (see John 1:35-42). But when the Bible became an object of literary and historical criticism, Petrine authorship started to be questioned. How could it be that an unlearned fisherman, as Acts 4:13 suggests, be as eloquent as Peter? The Greek of this letter is exquisite, and the themes are certainly lofty. Because little is said of the actual life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, Peter couldn’t have been the author and thus the letter is “pseudonymous,” that is, written by someone who used Peter’s name thus borrowing his authority.
But many scholars still believe that good evidence from within the letter itself points to Peter as author. First, the stated author is Peter, who calls himself an Apostle. The early Christian church founded on truth and honesty would not have accepted and preserved a letter with a false name attached. Second, details within the letter point to its author being personally acquainted with the life of Jesus, as will be noted throughout this quarter’s lesson. Finally, Peter’ sermons in Acts are by no means simple, and 1 Peter 5:12 suggests this letter ultimately came through Sylvanus (or “Silas”), who probably acted as a scribe. And so, Peter’s thoughts and ideas are put down in the words of someone fluent in educated Greek, making sense because the letter is written to an audience spread throughout the Greek-speaking world.
Does it make a different to you if this letter was written by Peter, or through a scribe, or by someone claiming to be Peter?
In 1:1, Peter writes to “those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” These could be ethnic foreigners who lack Roman citizenship due to Roman Colonization, and they are likely not Jews. But it’s also possible that they are Greeks who now realize they are foreigners on this earth (see Heb 11:9-10 of Abraham doing so), for whom their Roman identity has been subsumed in their new citizenship of Heaven. Their Christian faith has brought suffering on them. They are chosen, have the Spirit of God making them holy for the purpose of obedience.
To what degree to you identify this description of Peter’s audience with your own experience on earth?
A Blessing of New Hope
1 Peter 1:3-5 – This passage is filled with ideas, but central among them is hope. In 1 John 3 Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of the new birth in Christ required for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter builds on this and shows how the future is bright for Christians because the object of their hope isn’t dead, but alive! Jesus’ resurrection has brought to view an entirely new attitude toward life and death. Just as Jesus inherited the kingdom from His father, we also in Christ are co-inheritors of the blessings promised him. This inheritance isn’t made of gold, silver or objects that will decay, but of eternal life which cannot be stolen or will rot.
How does an earthly inheritance of property or money compare in your mind to that laid up for you in heaven through Christ?
Protection is afforded the hearers of this message. Remember, Peter’s audience are “aliens” and “strangers” who may lack the government’s interest in their well-being.
For Peter’s audience, why might this promise give them more hope or courage?
1 Peter 1:6-9 – Peter’s audience has suffered greatly, and as the rest of this letter will attest, even for their goodness. He tells them that they can rejoice in their salvation while going through trials of many kinds.
According to these verses, what blessings come through suffering? What is the result?
Prophets Pointed to Christ
1 Peter 1:10-12 – These verses suggest that the O.T. Prophets were interested in and writing about the salvation in Christ being experienced by Peter’s audience. For instance, Isaiah 53 speaks of the suffering servant who would bear the iniquity, stripes, and blows destined for me. But the prophets had a limited view, not fully understanding how salvation history would play out.
What other Old Testament passages or stories do you suppose Peter may have had in mind here?
A Holy Life
1 Peter 1:13-25 – in light of our salvation, what manner of people ought we to be? This section argues from cause to effect: because Christ has died, because we are imperishable children, called by God, having been purified, and experience salvation, a new motivation for action has come.
What are the moral imperatives given in this section? How are believers in Jesus to live?
In this life, we may have hope for success, for financial security, for pleasure or leisure, or to leave a legacy. But these things are fleeting. 1 Peter reminds us that Christians, though strangers on earth, are to live here as representatives of our Father, who has promised us an inheritance of inestimable value in Christ that won’t fade away. Our hope is in something better.