Overview of 1 Peter for New Testament Reading
Alienated, torn apart, devastated, and overwhelmed— these feelings that can wash over us when something bad happens in our lives. Suffering takes many forms—physical abuse, debilitating disease, social ostracism, intense persecution for doing the right thing. The pain and anguish are the enemy’s attempts to turn us back from the Lord, to give up, to give in and surrender to this world’s ways.
Many followers of Christ in the first century no doubt had these feelings of anguish and suffering as they were abused and persecuted for believing in and obeying Jesus Christ, the risen Savior. At the hands of Jewish brothers they were tormented and ostracized to the point of fleeing for their very existence on the earth. They were scattered like nomads without homes or property. As they went forth with the eternal hope but no earthly possessions they found that the Gentile world was just as cruel and unbelieving, hence persecution followed them wherever they went, but also the joy of Christ and eternal salvation. They would not bow the knee to Caesar.
Peter knew all too well this torment as he wrote his letter of encouragement to these suffering Christians around the years of 62-64 AD. He probably wrote from Rome as the great persecution under Emperor Nero began, which would soon take Peter’s earthly life from him. Tradition holds that he was crucified upside down in Rome for His Savior. He had previously been beaten and jailed, threatened often with attacks from those opposed to Christ and His message. But, nothing on this earth could shake the faith of this great man of God who was one of Jesus’ closest disciples during His earthly ministry.
So Peter offers comfort, hope, and abiding joy through Christ as he urged continued loyalty to the Lord even in desperate times.
Salvation- This gracious gift of God is emphasized over and over in the letter. God chose us out of His great love and Jesus is clearly marked as the One who died to pay the penalty of our sin, was buried and resurrected (made alive) for our benefit. The Holy Spirit cleanses us from sin through the blood of Christ’s work when we believe. Eternal life is the wonderful gift for those who trust in the Savior. Our safety and security are in God. Our hope is fixed completely on Him (1 Peter 1:13). This should motivate us to greater commitment and Christian fever.
Persecution- We should expect ridicule, rejection, and suffering when we are in Christ. Persecution makes us stronger because it refines our faith. We can face persecution victoriously, as Christ did, if we rely on Him in distress. Don’t let persecution terrify you and hold you back. Eternal life in Christ is given to us, which instills confidence, patience, and hope to stand firm as good soldiers of the cross.
God’s Family- We have a special privilege as God’s chosen people adopted into His eternal family. This community has Christ as its founder and foundation. Everyone in this family is related—brothers and sisters, loved equally by God. We must accept the challenge to live differently from the society around us in this brotherhood of love.
Family Life- Peter encouraged the wives of unbelievers to submit to their husbands’ authority as a means of winning them to Christ. He urged husbands to honor their wives and lead as Christ leads the church. He urged all family members to treat others with sympathy, love, compassion, and humility.
Judgment- God will judge everyone with perfect justice. We will all face God one day. He will punish evildoers and those who persecute God’s people. Those who love Him will be rewarded with life forever in His presence. Because all are accountable to God, we can leave judgment of others to Him. We must not hate or resent those who persecute us. We should realize that we will be held responsible for how we live each day.
Peter begins by thanking God for salvation (1:2-6). He explains to his readers that trials will refine their faith (1:7-9). They should believe is spite of their circumstances; for many in past ages believed in God’s plan of salvation, even the prophets of old who wrote about it but didn’t understand it completely. But now salvation has been revealed in Christ Jesus (1:10-13).
In response to such a great salvation, Peter commands them to live holy lives (1:14-16), to reverently fear and trust God (1:17-21), to be honest and loving (2:1-3), and to become like Christ (2:1-3).
Jesus Christ is the “living cornerstone” upon whom the church is to be built (2:4, 6), but is also the stone that was rejected, causing those who are disobedient to stumble and fall (2:7-8). But the church, built upon this stone, is to be God’s holy priesthood (2:9-10).
Next, Peter explains how believers should live during difficult times (2:11-4:11). Christians should live above reproach (2:12-17), imitating Christ in all their social roles—masters and servants, husbands and wives, church members and neighbors (2:18-3:17). Christ should be our model for obedience to God in the midst of great suffering (3:18-4:11).
Peter then outlines the right attitude to have about persecution: Expect it (4:12), be thankful for the privilege to suffer for Christ (4:13-18), and trust God for deliverance (4:19).
Next, Peter gives some special instructions: Elders should care for God’s flock (5:1-4), young men should be submissive to those who are older (5:5-6), and everyone should trust God and resist Satan (5:7-11). Peter concludes by introducing Silas and by sending personal greetings, possibly from the church in Rome, and from Mark (5:12-14).
1 Peter 1:7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
*Notes from this overview were aided by:
New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1995, pgs. 2196-2197.