Dr. Thomas L. Constable
This epistle claims that the Apostle Peter wrote it (1:1). Since there is only one Peter who was an apostle, we may be confident of the identity of the writer. There is only one Peter that the entire New Testament mentioned. For parallels between 1 Peter and Peter's sermons in Acts, compare 1 Peter 1:20 with Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 2:7-8 with Acts 4:10-11 (cf. Matt. 21: 42); and 1 Peter 4:5 with Acts 10:42. Scholars did not question Peter's authorship until the nineteenth century when destructive biblical criticism became popular. Since then, the views that Silvanus wrote the epistle, or co-wrote it with Peter, or that an anonymous writer composed it in Peter's name after Peter's death, have been the more popular ones.
"The epistle has been well known and consistently acknowledged as Petrine from the second century well into modern times. . . .
"Aside from the four Gospels and the letters of Paul, the external attestation for 1 Peter is as strong, or stronger, than that for any NT book. There is no evidence anywhere of controversy over its authorship or authority"
In contrast, there has been much controversy over the authorship of 2 Peter.
Peter first sent this letter to believers living in the northern regions of Asia Minor (1:1). This was not a region that Paul ever evangelized, as far as we know. The locations of these Christians, as well as allusions in the epistle, indicate that they were mainly Gentiles, but also Jews (cf. 1:14, 18; 2:9-10, 25; 3:6; 4:3-4).
Peter died in the 60s, and spent the last decade of his life in Rome, according to reliable tradition. The exact date of Peter's martyrdom is a matter of debate among scholars. Some believe that the traditional date of Peter's death was A.D. 64. Another claimed that it was A.D. 67. Many interpreters have regarded Peter's reference to "Babylon" (5:13) as a coded reference to "Rome," that Peter described as "Babylon" in order to highlight its paganism.
"Since the historical city of Babylon in Mesopotamia, often mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament, had no Jewish population in Peter's day (see Josephus, Ant. 18.371-79) and was almost deserted in A.D. 115 when the Emperor Trajan visited, almost no one thinks Peter wrote his letter from there. Another, very small Roman military colony in Egypt called 'Babylon' existed in Peter's day, but this too is a very unlikely provenance for 1 Peter."
Theologically, this epistle is eschatological (dealing with the end times). Along with its eschatological focus, there is much emphasis on holiness (personal, social, and communal), hope, salvation, community, relationship to the world, the Trinity, and especially suffering.
". . . much of the material in 1 Peter is the stuff of basic Christian teaching rather than advanced instruction that assumes the mastery (and perhaps the perversion) of the basics, as in the Pauline letters."
"Probably no other letter in the New Testament is said to rely so much on traditional material as is 1 Peter. . . . Scholars estimate that no other book in the New Testament, with the exception of Hebrews and Revelation, depends so heavily on the Old Testament."
"In many . . . respects, 1 Peter and James form a matched pair within the NT canon. They are Christian diaspora letters roughly similar in length, one directed (probably from Jerusalem) to scattered messianic Jews (i.e., Christians) who are real Jews, and the other directed from 'Babylon' to scattered 'Jews' who are in fact Gentile Christians."
As James is an exposition of Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5—7, 1 Peter expounds some of the same themes that Jesus taught in His discipleship discourse in Matthew 10.
Peter stated his reason for writing, namely, to encourage his readers, who were facing persecution for their faith, to "stand firm" (5:12). Evidently this persecution was widespread among his readers. Local enemies of the gospel were not the only people responsible for it. When Paul traveled around the Roman Empire preaching the gospel, some churches that he planted experienced persecution from the unsaved in their communities, but others did not. However, 1 Peter reflects persecution of the Christians throughout northern Asia Minor. This condition prevailed after Nero blamed the Christians for burning Rome in July of A.D. 64. While persecution seems to have been widespread, it may not have been official yet.
I. Introduction 1:1-2
II. The identity of Christians 1:3—2:10
A. Our great salvation 1:3-12
1. The hope of our salvation 1:3-5
2. The joy of our salvation 1:6-9
3. The witnesses of our salvation 1:10-12
B. Our new way of life 1:13-25
1. A life of holiness 1:13-16
2. A life of reverence 1:17-21
3. A life of love 1:22-25
C. Our priestly calling 2:1-10
1. Listening to God 2:1-3
2. Growing in God 2:4-5
3. Building on Christ 2:6-8
4. Summary affirmation of our identity 2:9-10
III. The responsibilities of Christians individually 2:11—4:11
A. Our mission in the world 2:11-12
B. Respect for others 2:13—3:12
1. Respect for everyone 2:13-17
2. Slaves' respect for their masters 2:18-25
3. Wives' respect for their husbands 3:1-6
4. Husbands' respect for their wives 3:7
5. The importance of loving enemies 3:8-12
C. Eventual vindication 3:13—4:6
1. Suffering for doing good 3:13-17
2. The vindication of Christ 3:18-22
3. Living with the promise in view 4:1-6
D. The importance of mutual love in end-times living 4:7-11
IV. The responsibilities of Christians collectively 4:12—5:11
A. The fiery trial 4:12-19
1. Suffering and glory 4:12-14
2. Suffering as Christians 4:15-19
B. The church under trial 5:1-11
1. The responsibilities of the elders 5:1-4
2. The responsibilities of the others 5:5
3. The importance of humility and trust in God 5:6-7
4. The importance of resisting the devil 5:8-11
V. Conclusion 5:12-14
One writer has identified five major motifs in 1 Peter. These are: (1) the believer's behavior, (2) the believer's unfair circumstances, (3) the believer's deference, (4) the believer's motivation by Christ's example, and (5) the believer's anticipation of future glory. Putting these together, he has stated the message of 1 Peter as follows:
This is a very fine statement of what the Holy Spirit has said to us through Peter in this epistle. However, I would add one more important motif. It is the believer's resource of God's grace. This is not an incidental motif but one that underlies all of what Peter called on his readers to do. We must understand and apply what he wrote about God's grace as our resource in order to obey his exhortations.
It seems to me that Peter stated the message of this epistle clearly: "Stand firm in the true grace of God" (5:12).
The subject of the letter, therefore, is "the true grace of God." "Grace" is the key word in the argument of this epistle. In each case, the word "grace" occurs in the practical, rather than in the doctrinal, part of each section of the letter. Throughout 1 Peter, the fact of God's grace was in Peter's mind as crucial to the believer's practice. How does one explain God's grace? "Grace" means both "undeserved favor" and "divine enablement." A good synonym is God's "help."
The main purpose of this epistle was to strengthen the readers so they would persevere through their persecution with the right attitude. Peter did this by showing that God's grace provided all that they needed for strength. In a larger sense, the purpose is to help Christians know how to live as "aliens" in the world.
This epistle reveals, above all else, that God's grace is sufficient for all our needs. We could write over this whole book: 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you." Notice five things that Peter reminds us about God's grace, as we trace his references to grace though 1 Peter.
First, grace proceeds from God. God in His grace has chosen Christians (1:2a). Now we need to appropriate God's grace in its fullest measure in our experience (1:2b).
Second, grace produces confidence. The prophets foretold God's grace (1:10). The two advents of Jesus Christ supply God's grace (1:13). Grace came into the world at His first advent, through His sufferings and death. It will come into the world again at His second advent, through His glorification. This pattern gives us confidence. God has united us with Christ. As He suffered once, we suffer now. As certainly as He will receive glory in the future, we too will experience glorification in the future. We need to remember our hope. (cf. James 1).
Third, what proclaims God's grace is our conduct (2:19-20). The Christian's conduct in trying and difficult circumstances manifests God's grace in a human life. The submissive conduct of servants, whose masters are persecuting them, manifests God's grace. The submissive conduct of wives, whose antagonistic husbands are persecuting them, manifests grace. The submissive conduct of husbands, whom unbelievers are persecuting, manifests grace. The husband demonstrates his submission to God by treating his wife as a "fellow heir" of God's grace (3:7). Our patient endurance of trials displays our submission to God's will. Thus the Christian's conduct should manifest God's grace. Sometimes we marvel at the ability that God gives his persecuted saints to endure. We say, "How can he (or she) do it?" They can do it because God provides grace.
Fourth, grace perfects character. Grace is the source of service (4:10). Grace is also the source of humility (5:5). An attitude of humility manifests itself in service of others. God's grace is the secret of both the attitude and the activity. Jesus established "The Order of the Towel" by washing the disciples' feet (John 13).
Fifth, grace promotes courage (5:10). We need courage to resist the devil (5:8-9). God's grace gives us strength to defend ourselves against his attacks.
This epistle exhorts us to "stand firm" in this grace (5:12). This is Peter's appeal to his Christian readers.
When God tries our faith, we need to remember that we have an adequate source of "strength" in God's grace (2 Cor. 12:9).
When our faith is trembling, we need to remember that we have an adequate source of "confidence" in God's grace. This is not simply positive thinking, but real external help.
When our circumstances are difficult, we need to remember that we have an adequate source of "conduct" in God's grace, not just "pep talks."
When we suffer for conscience's sake, we need to remember that we have an adequate source of "character" in God's grace, not just self-effort.
When assaulted by the adversary, we need to remember that we have an adequate source of "courage" in God's grace. Some need courage to evangelize, others need it to do other forms of ministry.
We "stand firm in the true grace of God" when we respond to suffering for Christ's sake as Peter directed. God's grace is what we need to rely on, as we commit ourselves to continue to walk in the will of God. We need to trust and obey!
Peter began this epistle in the manner that was customary in his day. He introduced himself to his original readers, and he wished God's blessing on them in order to prepare them for what he had to say. He prepared them for dealing with trials by reminding them of who they were, what they had, and where they were going (vv. 1-5).
1:1 "Peter" is a Greek name (lit. Petros, meaning a stone or rock). No one else in the New Testament has the name Peter, though Peter called Christians "stones" in this epistle (2:4-5). In Aramaic, "stone" is the word cephas. Jesus gave the name "Cephas" (Peter) to Simon (the Greek transliteration of "Simeon," Peter's original Hebrew name), as a prediction of what this apostle would become (John 1:42; Matt. 16:18).
The word "apostle" has both a technical and a general sense in the New Testament. It refers to the Twelve and Paul, but also to others who went out just as the Twelve and Paul did, to represent Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 14:4, 14). Peter was one of the Twelve, and he wrote with full apostolic authority.
Peter called his readers "aliens" (NIV "strangers") in order to introduce this self-concept into their minds. In this letter he emphasized that Christians are really citizens of heaven, and that our sojourn here on earth is only temporary (2:11; cf. Gen. 32:4; Ps. 39:12). The Greek word perepidemos (alien) contains both the ideas of alien nationality and temporary residence (cf. 2:11; Heb. 11:13).
"Parepidemoi are persons who belong to some other land and people, who are temporarily residing with a people to whom they do not belong. . . .
The particular group of Christians to whom this epistle went first lived in the northern Roman provinces of Asia Minor (modern western Turkey), north of the Taurus Mountains. Peter Davids estimated that when Peter wrote this epistle, about one million Jews lived in Palestine, and two to four million lived outside it. Asia Minor held the third largest concentration of Diaspora Jews after Babylon and Egypt.
This was originally an "encyclical" letter, written for circulation among the addressees. The sequence of listed provinces corresponds to the route that the bearer of the original epistle would have normally followed. This is also true of the seven cities addressed in Revelation 2 and 3.
Peter's readers were God's elect (Eph. 1:4; cf. Deut. 14:2; Isa. 45:4). One writer believed "chosen" (NASB) should be connected with "aliens." However, most translators regarded "chosen" as a noun, not an adjective, as the NASB suggests.
". . . the letter develops a unified thematic focus: the existence of Christians in a non-Christian society and overcoming that society by being prepared to bear oppression, i.e., to 'suffer.'
1:2 Election originates in the eternal will and purpose "of God the Father." The "foreknowledge (Gr. prognosin; cf. Acts 2:23) of God" refers, of course, to what God knows beforehand. God's foreknowledge has an element of determinism in it, because whatever really happens—that God knows beforehand (that is, everything)—exists or takes place because of His sovereign will. Therefore, when Peter wrote that God "[chose] according to [His] foreknowledge," he did not mean that God chose the elect because He knew beforehand they would believe the gospel (the Arminian position). God chose them because He determined beforehand that they would believe the gospel (the Calvinist position; cf. Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:3-6; 1 Thess. 1:4; 1 Peter 5:13).
"When applied to God's knowledge of persons (whether of Jesus or his people), 'foreknowledge' is more than mere prescience, it involves choice or determination as well (cf. Acts 2:23—the only other NT use of the noun—and Jud 9:6; also the verb proginoskein, 'know,' in Rom 8:29 and 11:2, as well as 1 Pet 1:20). In this sense God 'knows' some people and not others, whereas a general prescience would be all inclusive (cf. the particularized use of 'know' in Amos 3:2; Hos 5:3; 12:1 [LXX]; 1 Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9)."
The Holy "Spirit" accomplished election when He separated the elect, and set them aside to a special calling ("sanctifying work of the Spirit"). God's purpose in election was that we might "obey" God the Son, and that He might sprinkle us "with His blood" (cf. Eph. 2:10).
"To 'sprinkle with Christ's blood' means to take a person into the realm of influence of Christ's dying, to align him or her with the One who died. This alignment accomplishes, as the figure expresses graphically, purification and thereby appropriation into a new connection to God."
This is probably an allusion to covenant ratification (cf. Exod. 24:5-8). Jesus' blood was the ratification of the New Covenant (cf. Matt. 26:27-28; Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:20), since it was the basis for the forgiveness of sins (as promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34).
In this verse, Peter referred to all three members of the Trinity.
Probably Peter had Old Testament sprinkling of blood in mind when he wrote this verse. There are many Old Testament allusions in this epistle. Sprinkling with blood in Israel resulted in cleansing (Num. 19:9), bringing the person sprinkled under the terms and blessings of a covenant (Exod. 24:3-8), and induction into the priesthood and kingship.
Members of the priesthood enjoyed the privilege of mediating between God and people (Exod. 29:21; Lev. 8:30). Members of the royal line in Israel enjoyed the privilege of reigning under God. All of these benefits belong to the Christian as well, whom God has figuratively "sprinkled with [the] blood" of "Jesus Christ," the final Sacrifice for our sins. Obedience is our responsibility, and sprinkling is our privilege. Christ's blood covers our sins as sinners, cleanses our defilement as unclean people, and consecrates our service as priests and kings.
Peter prayed for God's fullest outpouring of His favor and help on his readers: "May grace . . . be yours in the fullest measure." They needed this to make it through and spiritually survive, in view of their present sufferings, which Peter proceeded to discuss. His readers also needed God's gift of "peace" since they were suffering.
"In looking back over Peter's designation of his readers, one is awed by the sweep and richness of his statement. If one has been prone to think of Peter primarily as an aggressive man of action, he here reveals himself also as a man who had a firm grasp of the great spiritual realities of the faith."
The essentially chiastic structure of thought in the letter, excluding the introduction and conclusion, can be visualized in the outline (see Introduction). The recurrence of the direct address "Beloved" in 2:11 and 4:12 divides this letter into three main parts.
"The theme of the first part is the identity of the people of God established on the basis of the great salvation Christ has accomplished (and is accomplishing) on their behalf. Their identity as a 'chosen' people is affirmed programmatically in the address (1:1-2) and confirmed in the concluding pronouncements of 2:9-10 so as to form an inclusio. More broadly, there is an inclusion between the emphasis on the identity of Christians in the first section (1:1-12) and last section (2:1-10) of part one. In the first section, they are 'chosen' as heirs of divine salvation, while in the last their election is confirmed by the metaphor of priesthood."
Peter began the body of this epistle by reminding his readers of their identity as Christians. He did this to enable them to rejoice in the midst of present suffering. They could "glory" in their sufferings since they would ultimately experience glorification. The tone of this entire epistle is warm, pastoral, and full of encouragement. In it, Peter partially fulfilled Jesus' instructions to him to "tend (shepherd) My [Jesus'] lambs . . . sheep" (John 21:15-17).
The first part of this section, on who we are as Christians, is a revelation of our great salvation. Some have called it "the Great Doxology." In this doxology, Peter reminded us of our hope, our joy, and the witnesses of our salvation. He did this so we would appreciate how greatly God has blessed us.
1:3 Peter called on his readers to bless (praise) God for giving us "a living hope." This undying hope has its roots in "the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Because He lives, we shall live. Our new birth gave us this life. Consequently our hope is both alive within us and part of our new life in Christ.
"Just as 'faith' can be subjective (the act or state of believing), or objective (the content of belief), so 'hope' can refer either to an anticipation (even a certainty) of good things to come or to the content of that anticipation, the good things themselves. The 'living hope' of which Peter speaks here is better understood in the second, objective, sense. As such, it appropriately parallels, and is further explained by, the 'inheritance' of v 4 and the 'salvation' of v 5 (cf. Col 1:5 . . .)."
Alford understood "a living hope" in the first, subjective sense:
Many popular writers have called Paul "the apostle of faith," John "the apostle of love," and Peter "the apostle of hope." They have done so because of the dominant emphasis each of these writers made in the New Testament. Peter had much to say about "hope" in this epistle.
When James wrote of "salvation," the particular aspect of salvation he usually had in view was practical sanctification. When Peter wrote of "salvation" in this epistle, the particular aspect of salvation he usually had in view was glorification.
"While Peter's teaching on how salvation is applied gave attention to the beginning and continued process of living as a Christian, the actual words for 'salvation' have a predominantly future orientation in 1 Peter."
"Born again" (cf. v. 23) describes the Christian who experienced spiritual regeneration (John 3:3). The phrase stresses the great change that takes place at conversion and our resultant participation in the life of God. God has been exceedingly merciful in giving us this blessing (cf. Rom. 11:30-32; 15:9; Eph. 2:1-7; Titus 3:5). One writer considered salvation the major theme of this epistle.
1:4 As the Israelites anticipated their "inheritance," the Promised Land, so we who are Christians should anticipate ours, the other side of the grave. However, ours is not subject to destruction from any source, defilement from without, or decay from within. Peter played with words when he described three characteristics of our inheritance. Each Greek word begins with the same letter and ends with the same syllable: It is in substance "imperishable" (aphtharton), in purity "undefiled" (amianton), and in beauty unfading ("not fading away," amaranton). No one can ravage or pollute our inheritance, and it will not wear out or waste away.
What is the Christian's inheritance exactly? It is Jesus Christ Himself plus all the blessings that He has promised us (cf. 1 John 3:2; Col. 3:4; Eph. 1:14; Rom. 8:11, 18-23). Not all Christians will obtain the same amount of inheritance (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Matt. 25:14-30; et al.), but every Christian will obtain much inheritance. Heaven will be the portion of all, but rewards will vary (1 Cor. 3:14-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 John 8).
The idea of serving Jesus Christ faithfully to receive a reward is distasteful to some Christians, because such service could flow from selfish motives. However, selfishness is not the only possible motive. For example, two students could study hard to finish seminary with good records. One of them might do so to obtain a diploma with a "highest honor" stamp, so he could hang it on his wall for all to see and admire. The other might do so to prepare to serve his Savior most effectively after graduation, with no thought of broadcasting his honor.
The Christian who serves Jesus Christ faithfully now, so the Lord may entrust him with significant service opportunities in His coming kingdom, is not necessarily trying to earn rewards for his own glory. He might be serving now so he can better glorify his Lord in the future. The present life is a training period designed to prepare us believers for future service in our Lord's earthly millennial and heavenly eternal kingdoms (cf. Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13; 19:11-27; Rom. 8:16-18).
1:5 Not only is God protecting our inheritance, He is also protecting us by His "power." All Christians will undoubtedly obtain an eternal inheritance one day (cf. Phil. 1:6; 1 Cor. 1:8). Our faith in Christ for salvation is, on the human side, what guarantees our final realization of the fullness of our "salvation" ("ready to be revealed in the last time"; i.e., our glorification). Peter was not saying our faith keeps us saved. He said God's power keeps us saved. Our "faith" is the means by which we receive (the downpayment of our) "salvation" initially, and, subsequently, our inheritance ("salvation . . . revealed in the last time").
"To interpret faith as a 'steadfast determination to cling to God in all trials' (Wand) makes their faith the cause of their preservation by God, i.e. they are saved because they cling steadfastly to God; this really makes the reference to God's power unnecessary and provides no assurance to the believer since what he doubts is his own power to cling to God in trial."
Some Christians (mainly in the Reformed tradition) believe this verse teaches that true Christians will inevitably continue in the faith, that they will never abandon Christianity or stop believing that Jesus is the Christ. They view the "faith" referred to in this verse as ongoing faith, rather than initial faith. One advocate of this view wrote the following:
I do not believe the apostle meant that the elect will inevitably continue in faith, namely, continue to believe the truths of the gospel. Paul warned that Christians can stop believing the truth (e.g., 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). Rather, Peter meant that God's "power" keeps believers saved in spite of their sins, because they have placed saving faith in Christ in the past. In this sense, we who are believers never lose our "faith."
There is much misunderstanding about the Bible's teaching concerning the perseverance of the saints. Joseph Dillow has the most helpful and biblically consistent discussion of perseverance that I have found. Scripture does not teach that Christians will inevitably continue to persevere in the faith, that is, continue believing the truth, walking with the Lord, or doing good works. It does teach that God will persevere in His commitment to bring every person who has trusted in Christ to heaven (eternal security).
If someone asks me if I believe in the perseverance of the saints, I ask him what he means by the "perseverance of the saints." If he means that a believer is eternally secure, I say that I believe that. If he means that a believer will inevitably continue to believe the truth or follow God faithfully to the end of his or her life, even with occasional lapses, I say I do not believe that.
The "salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" is the aspect of salvation that we have yet to enjoy, namely: our glorification. When God glorifies us, He will save us from the presence of sin forever. This will happen when we see our Savior, and are forever, from then on, with Him (1 Thess. 4:17). This glorification will become ours at death or the Rapture, whichever event comes first.
Salvation is the subject of 1:3—2:10. Note the recurrence of the word "salvation" (Gr. soteria) in 1:5, 9, 10, and 2:2. Peter referred primarily to the future aspect of our salvation in this epistle, namely, our glorification.
"The main thread of Peter's rhetoric [in this pericope] can . . . be expressed in one sentence: 'Then you will rejoice with inexpressible and glorious delight, when you each receive the outcome of your faith, your final salvation' . . ."
1:6 We can "greatly rejoice" in this hope. However, the antecedent of "this" may be "the last time" (v. 5). Peter's idea would then be that we will "greatly rejoice" on that future day, whereas now we experience "various" distressing "trials." God will preserve both us and our inheritance until we receive our inheritance. "Trials" (Gr. peirasmois, the same kind of trials James wrote about in James 1:2, et al.) are all kinds of tests that challenge our fidelity to God's will.
In comparison with the eternal bliss ahead, our present distresses are only "for a little while," temporary and brief (cf. Matt. 5:4-5; 2 Cor. 4:17-18). "Trials" are necessary for the Christian. God uses them to perfect us (cf. James 1:3-4). However, they tend to rob us of joy if we do not remember what Peter urged his readers to bear in mind here (cf. James 1:2).
1:7 Trials do to faith what "fire" does to "gold." They purify it, and reveal its true value and genuineness, what it really is (cf. James 1:3). Peter anticipated that his readers would respond to their trials properly. God purifies our faith with trials, by helping us realize the inadequacy of anything other than trust in Him in these situations. He shows that our faith is genuine, by demonstrating that our joy in trials rests solely on our confidence in Him and His promises. Both results—purity and proof of genuineness—bring "praise," "glory," and "honor" to God ultimately, though they also benefit us in the process.
"Glory is never said to be the possession of humans except as we share God's glory in the parousia (e.g., Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:4), although we contribute to this glory by our actions now (1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 1:12)."
The Greek word parousia means "presence" and, specifically, "the presence of one coming," hence the coming of Christ. The "revelation" ("uncovering," "appearing," Gr. apokalypsis) of Jesus Christ to Christians will take place at the Rapture, and His revelation to the world will take place at the Second Coming. Both events, seen as a whole, seem to be in view here (cf. v. 13). Peter's emphasis was not on when this would happen relative to other events yet future, but on the fact that it would happen in the future rather than now.
1:8 Even though we will experience joy when we see the Lord, we can experience "joy" even "now" as well, because we have "hope" (v. 3), "faith" (v. 7), and "love" (v. 8). These characteristics are inseparable. Our joy is "full of glory," in that the glory people will see when God reveals Jesus Christ infuses (pours into, fills up) our present joy (cf. John 20:29). Our joy will be no different on that day, only greater.
1:9 Ultimately we will obtain the full "salvation of [our] souls" (i.e., glorification, though not necessarily exemption from physical suffering and death now). The Greek word translated "souls" (psychon) refers to our persons, namely, the whole beings God has saved (cf. Mark 3:4; 8:34-37; Rom. 13:1; 1 Thess. 2:8; James 1:21; 5:20; et al.). A better translation would be "selves" or "lives." Peter probably did not intend a contrast with our bodies. This is part of the reason we experience joy in present trials as well. Since our salvation comes by faith, it is only consistent that we should continue to trust God now. Our salvation is still in process.
To summarize this first major section so far (vv. 3-9), Peter called on his readers to rejoice in their present sufferings because of their hope, faith, and love. They had certain hope in the future appearing of Jesus Christ and in their final glorification. They had faith in God's dealings with them presently, namely, allowing them to undergo trials, and they had love for Jesus Christ for what He had already done for them in the past. It does not matter if we look forward, around us, or backward. We can find reasons for rejoicing wherever we look—past, present, or future—even as we suffer.
Peter reminded his readers that the prophets had predicted that Jesus Christ's life, as their own lives, would include suffering followed by glory. He mentioned this in order to encourage them to realize that their experience of suffering—for their commitment to follow God faithfully—was not abnormal.
"To the elaborated and elevated declaration of his eschatological vision in vv 6-9, Peter now adds an explanatory postscript in a more didactic style. He pauses to measure the greatness of the salvation mentioned in vv 5 and 9 with a brief but wide-ranging reflection on the past and present. The curiosity of 'prophets' (v. 10) and 'angels' (v 12) underscores the mystery of the divine plan: God in his sovereignty has long kept secret the salvation soon to be revealed to his chosen ones (cf. Eph 3:4-6)."
These verses reveal a chiastic structure, centering on the idea that God clarified what had formerly been unclear to the prophets.
1:10-11 "Salvation" is the major concept that Peter discussed. He wanted his readers to remember that it included suffering as well as glory. The Old Testament prophets had predicted that Messiah would experience both suffering and glory (e.g., Isa. 61:1-3). However, they did not understand how His suffering and glory would fit together. It is possible to understand that mystery only after Jesus' earthly ministry.
Many Christians do not realize that God intends our experience as well to include both suffering and glory.
The title "Spirit of Christ" occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in Romans 8:9. In both places, it probably signifies not only that the Spirit came from Christ, but also that He witnesses to Christ as His representative (cf. John 15:26-27). Peter was stressing the Spirit's witness to Christ in the Old Testament, rather than the preexistence of Christ.
Some interpreters have seen the phrase "the grace that would come to you" (v. 10) as a reference to the salvation of Gentiles. The Old Testament prophets predicted this, too (e.g., Isa. 52:15). Peter's original audience was probably made up predominantly of groups of Gentile Christians. It seems more likely, however, that Peter was not referring exclusively to prophecy about Gentile salvation. He seems to have been referring to the "grace" which God promised to bestow on believers generally, including Gentile salvation, about which he had been speaking in verses 3-9.
These verses clearly distinguish, by the way, between the divine author and the human writers of Scripture. "The prophets" were not merely religious geniuses; they were people through whom God spoke (2 Pet. 1:21). At times they knew that they did not fully comprehend what they were communicating ("made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know . . ."). At other times, they probably thought they basically understood but did not completely see the full significance of what they communicated (cf. Dan. 9; 12:5-13; Hab. 2:1-4). They did not know the "time" when many messianic prophecies would be fulfilled, either.
1:12 The prophets did understand, however, that God would not fulfill all of their inspired revelations in their own days but in the future ("not serving themselves, but you"). God had fulfilled the prophecies about Messiah's sufferings in Peter's day, but He had not yet fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah's glorification. Even the "angels" are waiting to see ("long to look . . . into . . . these things") how and exactly when God will fulfill them (cf. Heb. 1:5—2:18).
The Holy Spirit has a ministry of illumination as well as inspiration. He enables others to understand God's revelation as preachers explain it—and, of course, as they hear it in other ways.
Peter's point in verses 10-12 seems to be that his readers could rejoice in their sufferings, even though they could not see exactly how or when their present trials would end. The readers should find encouragement by looking at the prophets' limited understanding of their own prophecies dealing with the suffering and glorification of Messiah. God would bring their own experiences to a glorious completion, just as surely as He would Messiah's, though in both cases the details of fulfillment were not yet clear.
Peter wanted his readers to live joyfully in the midst of sufferings. Consequently he outlined his readers' major responsibilities, in order to enable them to see their duty clearly so they could carry it out. These responsibilities were their duties to God, to other believers, and to the world.
The first sub-section of this epistle (vv. 3-12) stressed walking in hope. The second sub-section (vv. 13-25) emphasizes walking in holiness, reverence, and love. Peter held out several incentives to encourage his suffering readers to walk appropriately: God's glory (v. 13), God's holiness (vv. 14-15), God's Word (v. 16), God's judgment (v. 17), and God's love (vv. 18-21). Peter presented the believer's duty to God as consisting of three things: a correct perspective, correct behavior, and a correct attitude.
1:13 "Therefore" ties in with everything Peter had explained thus far (vv. 3-12). He said, in effect, "Now that you have focused your thinking positively, you need to roll up your sleeves mentally, pull yourselves together, and adopt some attitudes that will affect your activities."
"In Israel an ordinary person wore as the basic garment a long, sleeveless shirt of linen or wool that reached to the knees or ankles. Over this mantle something like a poncho might be worn, although the mantle was laid aside for work. The shirt was worn long for ceremonial occasions or when at relative rest, such as talking in the market, but for active service, such as work or war, it was tucked up into a belt at the waist to leave the legs free (1 Kings 18:46; Jer. 1:17; Luke 17:8; John 21:18; Acts 12:8). Thus Peter's allusion pictures a mind prepared for active work."
"Sober in spirit" describes a Christian who is in full control of his speech and conduct, in contrast to one who allows his flesh (i.e., his sinful human nature) to govern him.
The main duty, however, is to become conscious of the culmination of our "hope" when Christ returns (cf. v. 7; 4:3; Titus 2:10-13). When we "fix [our] hope completely on the grace to be brought to [us]," present trials will not deflect us from obeying God faithfully now. In other words, Peter urged his readers to face their daily trials with a specific attitude clearly and constantly in mind. We should remember that what God will give us soon, as a reward for our faithful commitment to Him, is worth any sacrifice now (cf. Rom. 8:18).
It has been suggested that "the grace to be brought to you" may refer to dying grace ministered divinely to martyrs. However, the reference to "the revelation of Jesus Christ" seems to refer to the time when He appears.
1:14 A better translation of "obedient children" might be "children whose spirit is obedience." Negatively, we should stop letting our sinful passions ("former lusts") dominate and control us (cf. Rom. 12:2). Self-indulgence is characteristic of those who are ignorant of God. Practically, this involves saying "no" to the flesh.
The fact that Peter said that his readers had lived in "ignorance" identifies them for the first time explicitly as Gentile Christians (cf. Acts 17:23, 30; Eph. 4:18). The Jews were not ignorant of the importance of abstaining from fleshly lusts, since their Scriptures informed them of this.
1:15 Positively, we should emulate our holy God ("the Holy One"), who "called" us to "be holy," and to "be holy in all [our] behavior": thoughts, words, and deeds (cf. 2:9, 21; 3:9; 5:10; Mark 1:17). "Holy" means set apart from sin to God. We are to strive after sinless living, namely: purity. Peter was not implying that his readers had been living unholy lives, but that holiness should distinguish them.
This verse contains the first use of a key word in 1 Peter: "behavior" (Gr. anastrophe; cf. 1:18; 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16). Other frequently recurring words include "bear up" (Gr. pascho; cf. 2:19, 20, 21, 23; 3:14, 17, 18; 4:1 [twice], 15, 19; 5:10), "submit" (Gr. hypotasso; cf. 2:13, 18; 3:1, 5, 22; 5:5), and "do right" (Gr. agathopoieo; cf. 2:15, 20; 3:6, 17). Taken together, these words indicate one of this epistle's distinctive emphases, namely, the importance of bearing up submissively and practicing good deeds, while at the same time enduring persecution for one's faith.
1:16 Peter reinforced this imperative with an Old Testament quotation (cf. Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7): "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
"When it comes to the use of the OT, 1 Peter stands out among the NT letters, especially when one compares the number of citations and allusions to the length of the letter. 1 Peter contains about the same number of OT references per unit of text as does Hebrews. Only Revelation contains more."
The writer just quoted listed nine citations of Old Testament passages, and 20 allusions to Old Testament passages, in 1 Peter.
In the context, Israel was to be holy so she could have intimate fellowship with God. We cannot expect to enjoy intimate fellowship with God, who is holy, unless we are holy too. Intimate fellowship with God is the greatest good that human beings can experience (cf. Phil. 3:8), but without holiness it is impossible (cf. Heb. 12:14).
"The Word reveals God's mind, so we should learn it; God's heart, so we should love it; God's will, so we should live it. Our whole being—mind, will, and heart—should be controlled by the Word of God. . . .
"We do not study the Bible just to get to know the Bible. We study the Bible that we might get to know God better. Too many earnest Bible students are content with outlines and explanations, and do not really get to know God. It is good to know the Word of God, but this should help us better know the God of the Word."
Peter continued the exposition of the Leviticus commands to "be holy because Yahweh is holy" that he began in verse 16.
"Peter's point is that if he and his readers have a special relationship to God by virtue of their calling and their new birth, then it is all the more urgent that they remember who he is in himself, and display the reverence that God deserves."
1:17 "If" means "since" here (a first class condition in Greek). We do call on ("address") God as our "Father," because He is our Father (Matt. 6:4, 6, 9; Luke 11:2; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Nevertheless, He is also the Judge of all, and He judges "impartially," not on the basis of appearances but on the basis of reality ("each one's work"). Since we must all stand before God for an evaluation of our works, we should live now ("during [our] stay on earth") accordingly (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10).
"Each of us will give an account of his works, and each will receive the appropriate reward. This is a 'family judgment,' the Father dealing with His beloved children. The Greek word translated judgeth carries the meaning 'to judge in order to find something good.'"
It is good for us to maintain respect ("fear") for God as our Judge, since He has this power (authority) over us (cf. Heb. 12:29).
Again Peter reminded us that our earthly life of trials and suffering is only a brief sojourn.
1:18-19 The Greek word for "redeemed" (elytrothete) means "to ransom," or "to free by paying a price" (cf. Mark 10:45; Luke 24:21; Tit. 2:14).
"Any representative first-century church would have three kinds of members: slaves, freemen [those who had never been slaves], and freed men. People became slaves in various ways—through war, bankruptcy, sale by themselves, sale by parents, or by birth. Slaves normally could look forward to freedom after a certain period of service and often after the payment of a price. Money to buy his freedom could be earned by the slave in his spare time or by doing more than his owner required. Often the price could be provided by someone else. By the payment of a price (lytron, antilytron), a person could be set free from his bondage or servitude. A freed man was a person who formerly had been a slave but was now redeemed."
As the death of the Passover lamb liberated the Israelites from physical bondage in Egypt, so the death of Jesus Christ frees us from the spiritual bondage of sin (cf. Exod. 12:5). In speaking of redemption, Peter always emphasized our freedom from a previously sinful lifestyle for the purpose of living a changed life here and now. Jesus Christ's life, represented by the "precious blood," is of infinitely greater value than any mere metal ("silver or gold"), as precious as that metal may be (cf. Acts 3:6; 8:20). "Futile" means vain or powerless, and it suggests that many of Peter's readers were indeed Gentiles. We would normally expect this in view of where they lived (v. 1). This word better describes the lifestyle of an unsaved Gentile than that of an unsaved Jew (cf. v. 14).
1:20-21 The Fall did not take God by surprise. He already knew what He would do in view of it, and Who would do it ("Christ . . . was foreknown before the foundation of the world"). We have two good reasons why we can come to God: what Christ did for us ("redeemed" us), and what God did for Christ ("raised Him" and "gave Him glory") for what Christ did for us. Our attitude toward God, therefore, can and should be both reverential (v. 17) and confident as we endure suffering for our faith.
"The pre-existence of Christ is implied here through the additional words was made manifest, i.e. at the incarnation; it was not merely a plan of God but Christ himself who was hidden until the moment for revelation."
So far ". . . the ethical impact of the epistle barely begins to make itself felt. The call to action and to a holy and reverent life is general rather than specific. The imperatives of hope and of godly fear have more to do with eschatological expectations than with ethics, and more to do with the readers' relationship to God than with their relationships to each other or to their pagan neighbors."
"At this point ends what we may call the doctrinal section of the Epistle. St. Peter has been explaining the three Names [i.e., Jesus Christ, God, and Holy Spirit], their three attributes, and their several relations. Here he passes to the practical Christian life, catching up and expounding the words hagiasmos [sanctification], anagennan [born again]."
Peter next turned his attention from the believer's duty to God, to the believer's duty to his or her Christian brethren. He did so to further explain the implications of living joyfully during trials and suffering. Then he returned to what he set out to do in verse 13, namely, to spell out the implications of Christian faith and hope. However, Peter continued to reflect on the theological basis of our ethical responsibilities. He would get into practical Christian ethics later. Obedience to the truth produces a sincere love for the brethren (1:22-25), repentance from sin (2:1), and a desire for spiritual growth (2:2).
1:22 The purification to which Peter referred occurred at conversion as a result of believing the gospel (cf. John 13:10). This cleansing made it possible for us to "love" other Christians "fervently," unremittingly (Gr. ektenos). Now Peter urged his readers to do everything out of "sincere (unhypocritical) love" for "the brethren"—"from the heart". We do not need to love one another as though we were brethren. We can love one another because we really are brethren.
1:23 The "[W]ord of God" is the instrument God uses to produce new birth (cf. Matt. 13:20; Luke 8:11). This "seed" shares the character of its Source. It never passes out of fashion, nor does it become irrelevant.
"All the way from the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, to 'Babylon the Great' in Revelation 17—18, man's great attempts at unity are destined to fail.
1:24-25 This quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8 contrasts the transitory character of nature and the eternality of God's Word (cf. James 1:10-11). Every natural thing eventually dies and disappears, the opposite of God's living and abiding Word (cf. Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). The seed lives and abides, and so do those to whom it gives new life.
"My friend, we need the preaching and the teaching of the Word of God above everything else. I do not mean to minimize the place of music, the place of methods, and the place of organization, but there is absolutely no substitute for the Word of God today."
The duty of Christians to one another, then, is to love one another unremittingly. This is true even of Christians who are suffering for their commitment to follow God faithfully. We can and should do so because we are genuine brethren, and because we will abide "forever."
Peter continued his explanation of Christians' duties while they joyfully endure trials and suffering. He called his readers to do certain things in the world of unbelievers, and he reminded them of certain realities in this pericope. He did so to motivate them to press on to finish God's plan and purpose for them in the world now.
"The great doxology (1:3-12) begins with praise to God, who is the One who begot us again. All hortations that follow grow out of this our relation to God: 1) since he who begot us is holy, we, too, must be holy (1:13-16); 2) since he is our Judge and has ransomed us at so great a price, we must conduct ourselves with fear (1:17-21); 3) since we are begotten of the incorruptible seed of the Word we are brethren, and thus our relation to each other must be one of love, of children of the one Father (1:22-25). So Peter now proceeds to the next hortation: 4) since we have been begotten by means of the eternal Word we should long for the milk of the Word as our true and proper nourishment."
In this pericope, Peter used four different images to describe the Christian life. These are: (1) taking off habits like garments, (2) growing like babies, (3) being built up like a temple, and (4) serving like priests.
2:1 "Therefore" goes back to 1:3-12, as well as 1:22-25. To prepare for an exposition of the Christian's calling, Peter urged his readers to take off all kinds of evil conduct like so many soiled garments (cf. Zech. 3:1-5; Rom. 1:29-30; 2 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; James 1:21). The sins he mentioned are all incompatible with brotherly love (cf. 1:22). "Malice" (wickedness) and guile ("deceit") are attitudes. The remaining three words describe specific actions: "hypocrisy," "envy," and "slander." These are not "the grosser vices of paganism, but community-destroying vices that are often tolerated by the modern church."
"The early Christian practice of baptism by immersion entailed undressing completely; and we know that in the later liturgies the candidate's removal of his clothes before descending naked to the pool and his putting on a new set on coming up formed an impressive ceremony and were interpreted as symbols of his abandonment of his past unworthy life and his adoption of a new life of innocence . . ."
Peter here called his readers to put into practice what they had professed in their baptism.
2:2 Next he urged them to do something positive. Since they had experienced the new birth (1:3, 23), they should now do what babies do (drink "milk"), not that they were new Christians necessarily. The "the pure milk of the [W]ord" is probably the milk that is the Word itself, rather than the milk contained in the Word, namely, Christ Himself, though either interpretation is possible.
"'Milk' is here not elementary truths in contradistinction to more advanced Christian truths, as in I Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12, 13; but in contrast to 'guile, hypocrisies . . .' (vs. 1); the simplicity of Christian doctrine in general to the childlike spirit."
"Long for" is a strong expression that we could paraphrase "develop an appetite for." This is the only imperative in the passage in the Greek text. God's Word is spiritual food that all believers instinctively desire, but we must also cultivate a taste for it (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18).
"It is sad when Christians have no appetite for God's Word, but must be 'fed' religious entertainment instead. As we grow, we discover that the Word is milk for babes, but also strong meat for the mature (1 Cor. 3:1-4; Heb. 5:11-14). It is also bread (Matt. 4:4) and honey (Ps. 119:103)."
Ask God to give you a greater appetite for His Word to help you "grow." God's Word is "pure," in that it is free from deceit (cf. 1:22-25). "Salvation" here, as Peter used it previously, refers to the full extent of salvation that God desires every Christian to experience.
2:3 Peter's readers had already "tasted" God's goodness ("kindness") in their new birth. Greater consumption of God's Word would bring greater satisfaction, as well as increased spiritual growth (cf. Ps. 34:8).
2:4 Not only is Jesus Christ the source of the believers' spiritual sustenance, He is also their Foundation ("living stone"). Peter not only changed his metaphor from growing to building, but he also changed it from an individual to a corporate focus. However, unlike a piece of rock, Jesus Christ is alive and able to impart strength to those who suffer for His sake. "Living stone" is an oxymoron, a figure of speech in which the writer joins contradictory or incongruous terms to make a point.
The point here is that, even though Jesus Christ is the church's Foundation, that is, the first-century Founder and Foundation Stone upon whom the church's founding and building were established, He is also alive today. Builders quarried and chiseled huge blocks of stone to support large buildings in the ancient Near East. Some of the Old Testament writers compared God to such a foundation (e.g., Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30-31; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 62:2, 6; et al.; cf. Matt. 7:24-25; 16:18). Peter modified this figure and used it to describe Jesus Christ.
Here Peter began to give the basis on which the four preceding exhortations rest. These exhortations were: (1) be holy (1:13-16), (2) be fearing (1:17-21), (3) be loving (1:22-25), and (4) be consuming the Word (2:1-3). These four qualities grow out of our relationship to God who has begotten us.
The apostle referred to Psalm 118:22, that both Jesus and he had previously quoted to the Sanhedrin (Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11).
2:5 Peter saw the church as a living temple ("spiritual house"), to which God was adding with the conversion of each new believer ("living stones"). Each Christian is one of the essential "stones" that enables the whole structure to fulfill its purpose (cf. Matt. 16:15-18). Later Peter would say his readers were also "priests" (v. 9), but here the emphasis is on their being a building for priestly service ("house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices"), namely, "a temple."
"This 'spiritual house' includes believers in the five Roman provinces of 1:1 and shows clearly how Peter understood the metaphor of Christ in Matt. 16:18 to be not a local church, but the church general (the kingdom of Christ)."
This verse helps us appreciate how much we need each other as Christians. God has a purpose for all of us to fulfill together, that we cannot fulfill individually on our own. The Christian who is not working in relationship with other Christians as fellow stones, as well as with Jesus Christ as his or her foundation, cannot fulfill God's complete purpose for him or her. While every Christian has an individual purpose, we also have a corporate purpose that we cannot fulfill—unless we take our place in the community of Christians that is the church. Peter explained this purpose more fully below, but here he revealed that it involves worship and service (cf. Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15-16; Phil. 4:18).
Some scholars believe that what follows, and some other portions of this epistle, contains quotations from early Christian hymns. Others dispute this hypothesis. In either case, the discussion is purely academic and has no bearing on the interpretation of the text.
2:6 Before going on, however, Peter elaborated on the foundation of this building, the church. "Zion" here refers to the heavenly Jerusalem, that larger eschatological entity of which the church will be only a part (cf. Rev. 21:14). The "corner stone" refers to the main stone on which the building rests. It does not refer to a modern "cornerstone," or to the last stone the mason put at the top of the building, the "keystone" (Isa. 28:16; cf. Eph. 2:20). In view of this, it seems that the rock (Gr. petra, a large stone), to which Jesus referred in Matthew 16:18, was not Peter (Gr. Petros, a small stone), but Himself. Jesus, not Peter, much less Judaism, is the Foundation upon which God has promised to build the church (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11).
Isaiah promised that those who "believe on (in)" the Stone "will never (Gr. ou me, the strongest negative) be disappointed."
Peter described two relationships of the believer in these verses (4-6). First, he rests on Christ as a building rests on its foundation. Furthermore, secondly, he relates to every other believer, as the stones of a building under construction relate to one another. We need each other, should support each other, and should work together to build the church in the world.
2:7-8 In contrast to believers, "those who disbelieve" and "are disobedient to the word," who reject Jesus Christ as the Foundation, find Him to be "a stone" over which they trip and fall ("of stumbling"). He becomes the instrument of their destruction. The "builders" were Israel's religious leaders (cf. Ps. 118:22). When they disobeyed Old Testament commands to accept their Messiah, they stumbled spiritually and would suffer destruction (Isa. 8:14). This was true of Israel corporately, and it is true of every unbeliever individually.
Jesus Christ was the Stone that would have completed Israel, had Israel's leaders accepted Him as their Messiah—Israel's "Keystone." Instead, the Israelites cast the stone aside by rejecting their Messiah. God then proceeded to make this Stone the Foundation ("corner stone") of a new edifice that He would build, namely, the church. Israel's rejected keystone has become the church's foundation stone.
Election results in the salvation of some (1:2), but it also means destruction for others (v. 8).
"In the immediate context it is not so much a question of how Christian believers perceive Christ as of how God (in contrast to 'people generally') perceives him, and of how God consequently vindicates both Christ and his followers."
To what does God appoint those who stumbled: to unbelief, or to the stumbling that results from unbelief? In the Greek text, the antecedent of "to this" (eis ho) is the main verb "stumble" (proskoptousi), as it is in the English text. "Are disobedient" (apeithountes) is a participle that is subordinate to the main verb. Therefore, we would expect "to this" to refer to the main verb, "stumble," rather than to the subordinate participle "are disobedient." God appoints those who stumble to stumble, because they do not believe. Their disobedience is not what God has ordained, but the penalty of their disobedience ("stumbling") is (cf. Acts 2:23; Rom. 11:8, 11, 30-32).
The doctrine of "double predestination" promotes that God foreordains some people to damnation, just as He foreordains some to salvation. This has seemed to some Bible students to be the logical conclusion we should draw because of what Scripture says about the election of believers (e.g., Rom. 9; Eph. 1). However, this is not a scriptural revelation. The Bible always places the responsibility for the destiny of the lost on them, for not believing, rather than on God for foreordaining (e.g., John 1:12; 3:36; 5:24; 6:47; Rom. 1—3).
Peter proceeded to clarify the nature of the church, and in doing so he explained the duty of Christians in the world, particularly suffering Christians.
2:9 All the figures of the church, that Peter chose here ("chosen race," "royal priesthood," "holy nation," "people for God's own possession"), originally referred to Israel. However, with Israel's rejection of Jesus Christ (v. 7), God created a new body of people, through whom He now seeks to accomplish the same purposes He formerly sought to achieve through Israel, but by different means. This verse, which at first might seem to equate the church and Israel, on careful examination shows as many differences between these groups as similarities.
"But this does not mean that the church is Israel or even that the church replaces Israel in the plan of God. Romans 11 should help us guard against that misinterpretation. . . . The functions that Israel was called into existence to perform in its day of grace the church now performs in a similar way. In the future, according to Paul, God will once again use Israel to bless the world (cf. Rom. 11:13-16, 23-24)."
Israel was a physical race of people, the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The church is a spiritual race, the members of which share the common characteristic of faith in Christ, but racially comprise both Jews and Gentiles. Christians are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. They are not Abraham's literal descendants, unless they are ethnic Jews, but are his "children" in the sense that they believe God's promises as he did.
God's purpose for Israel was that she be a nation of priests (Exod. 19:6), who would stand between God and the rest of humanity, representing people before God. However, God withdrew this blessing from the whole nation because of the Israelites' apostasy with the golden calf, and gave it to the faithful tribe of Levi instead (Num. 3:12-13, 45; 8:14; cf. Exod. 13:2; 32:25-29). In contrast, every individual Christian is a priest before God: we function as priests to the extent that we worship, intercede, and minister (v. 5; Rev. 1:6). There is no separate priestly class in the church as there was in Israel.
"Whatever its precise background, the vision of 1 Peter is that the Gentiles to whom it is written have become, by virtue of their redemption in Christ, a new priesthood in the world, analogous to the ancient priesthood that was the people of Israel. Consequently they share with the Jews the precarious status of 'aliens and strangers' in the Roman world."
"When I was a pastor, I preached a message entitled, 'You Are a Catholic Priest.' The word catholic means 'general,' of course. In that sense every believer is a catholic priest, and all have access to God."
God redeemed Israel at the exodus, and adopted the nation at Mt. Sinai, as one that would be different from all others throughout history (Exod. 19:6). God wanted Israel to be a "Beacon to the Nations," holding the light of God's revelation up for all to see, similar to the Statue of Liberty (Isa. 42:6). He did not tell all the Israelites to take this light to those in darkness, but to live before others in the Promised Land. He would attract others to them and to Himself, as He did the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10) and Naaman (2 Kings 5).
However, Israel failed. She preferred to be a nation "like all the [other] nations" (1 Sam. 8:5). Now God has made the church the Bearer of His Light. God has not told us to be a localized demonstration, as Israel was, but to be aggressive missionaries going to the ends of the earth. God wanted Israel to stay in her land. He wants us to "go into all the world" with the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20).
God wanted to dwell among the Israelites, and to make them His own unique possession by residing among them (Exod. 19:5). He did this in the tabernacle and the temple, until the apostasy of the Israelites made continuation of this intimacy impossible. Then the presence of God departed from His people (cf. Ezek. 10). In the church, God does not only dwell among us, but He resides in every individual Christian (John 14:17; Rom. 8:9). He has promised never to leave us (Matt. 28:20).
"It [the church] is a race, and this suggests its life principle. It is a priesthood, and so has right of access to God. It is a nation, and so is under His government. It is a possession, and so is actually indwelt by Him."
The church is what it is, so that it can do what God has called it to do. Essentially the church's purpose is the same as Israel's. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20; et al.) clarifies the methods God wants us to use. These methods differ from those He specified for Israel, but the church's vocation is really the same as Israel's. It is to be the instrument through which the light of God reaches individuals who still sit in spiritual darkness.
It is a fallacy, however, to say that the church is simply the continuation or replacement of Israel for the New Testament era, as most covenant theologians do. Most theologians agree that the most basic difference between dispensational theology and covenant theology, is that dispensationalists believe that the church is distinct from Israel, whereas covenant theologians believe that the church is the continuation and replacement of Israel, the so-called "new Israel."
2:10 Peter highlighted the differences involved in our high calling, by contrasting what his readers were and had before conversion, with what they were and had after conversion. The church is not the only people of God in history. Nevertheless, it is the "people of God" in the present era because of Israel's rejection of the Corner Stone (cf. Hos. 1:10; 2:23; Rom. 9—11).
"The evidence from the use of the Old Testament in 1 Peter 2:6-10 suggests that the Old Testament imagery used to describe the church in 1 Peter 2:9-10 does not present the church as a new Israel replacing ethnic Israel in God's program. Instead, Old Testament Israel was a pattern of the church's relationship with God as his chosen people. Therefore Peter uses various aspects of the salvation, spiritual life, and service of Israel in its relationship with Yahweh to teach his recipients the greater salvation, spiritual life, and service they enjoy in Christ. In his use of the three people of God citations in 1 Peter 2:9-10, the apostle is teaching that there are aspects of the nation of Israel's experience as the people of God that are also true of the New Testament church. These elements of continuity include the election, redemption, holy standards, priestly ministry, and honor of the people of God. This continuity is the basis for the application of the title people of God to the church in 1 Peter 2:1-10.
"The escalation or advancement of meaning in Peter's application of these passages to his recipients emphasizes the distinction between Israel and the church. Israel is a nation, and the national, political, and geographic applications to Israel in the Old Testament contexts are not applied to the church, the spiritual house, of 1 Peter. Furthermore, the initial application of these passages to the church by typological-prophetic hermeneutics does not negate the future fulfillment of the national, political, and geographic promises, as well as the spiritual ones, made to Israel in these Old Testament contexts."
Christians, generally speaking, do not understand or appreciate God's purpose for the church, that Peter presented so clearly here. Consequently many Christians lack purpose in their lives. Evidence of this includes self-centered living, unwillingness to sacrifice, worldly goals, and preoccupation with material things. Before Christians will respond to exhortations to live holy lives, they need to understand the reasons it is important to live holy lives. This purpose is something many preachers and teachers assume, but we need to affirm and assert it much more in our day.
"Peter concludes the first major section of his epistle (1:3—2:10) by drawing the lines for a confrontation. Two groups are differentiated—'unbelievers' and 'you who believe'—on the basis of their contrasting responses to Jesus Christ, the 'choice and precious Stone' (v 6). The former are on their way to 'stumbling' and shame, the latter to 'honor' and vindication. The theological contrast between these two groups, with its consequent social tensions, will absorb Peter's interest through the remainder of his epistle."
Since Christians have a particular vocation in the world, certain conduct was essential for Peter's suffering readers.
"The address, 'Dear friends, I appeal to you,' in 2:11 marks a shift from the identity of God's people to their consequent responsibility in a hostile world. If 1:3—2:10 expanded on their identity as 'chosen people' (cf. 1:2), the reference to them as 'aliens and strangers' in 2:11 serves as a reminder that they are at the same time 'living as strangers' (again cf. 1:2) in contemporary society."
Peter explained what Christian conduct should be negatively (v. 11) and positively (v. 12). Then he expounded more specifically what it should be positively in 2:13—4:11.
2:11 "Beloved, I [or we] urge you" frequently marks off a new section of an epistle, as it does here (Rom. 12:1; 15:30; 16:17; 1 Cor. 1:10; 16:15; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 4:1, 10b; 5:14; Heb. 13:22; cf. 4:12; 5:1). "I urge you" typically introduces exhortations. Again Peter reminded his audience of their identity so they would respond naturally and appropriately (cf. 1:1-2, 17).
Aliens have no rights in the land where they live. Strangers are only temporary residents (cf. 1:17; Gen. 23:4; Ps. 39:12; Eph. 2:19; Heb. 13:14). Peter reminded his readers that, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through." Note the dual hendiadys that form an inclusio for 2:11-25: "aliens and strangers" (v. 11) and "Shepherd and Guardian" (v. 25). A hendiadys is a figure of speech in which the writer expresses one complex idea by joining two substantives with "and." Here the meanings are "strangers who are aliens" and "the Shepherd who guards."
"Peter's purpose is not to define his readers' actual legal or social status in the Roman Empire . . . but simply to further his standing analogy between them and the Jewish people (cf. Heb. 11:13 . . .)."
In view of our status we should refuse the appeal of our desire to indulge in things that are contrary to God's will for us. "Fleshly lusts" are selfish natural appetites that appeal to our sinful nature (cf. 1 John 2:16). We experience temptation to satisfy bodily desires in ways contrary to God's will.
"The knowledge that they do not belong does not lead to withdrawal, but to their taking their standards of behavior, not from the culture in which they live, but from their 'home' culture of heaven, so that their life always fits the place they are headed to, rather than their temporary lodging in this world."
Peter spoke of the soul as the whole person (cf. 1:9; 2:25; James 1:21; et al.). When we yield to the desires of the flesh that God's Word condemns, we become double-minded, somewhat schizophrenic. This Peter aptly described as war in the soul. The antagonists are the lusts or will of the flesh and the will of God (cf. Gal. 5:17).
2:12 Peace in the inner man is necessary for excellent behavior before others. Part of the suffering Peter's original readers were experiencing was due evidently to slander from unbelieving Gentile pagans. They appear to have been accusing them unjustly of doing evil. This has led some commentators to conclude that Peter wrote this epistle after A.D. 64 when Nero began an official persecution of Christians allegedly for burning Rome. I think this conclusion is reasonable.
Peter urged his readers to give their critics no cause for justifiable slander. If they obeyed, their accusers would have to glorify God by giving a good testimony concerning the lives of the believers when they stood before God. The "day of visitation" is probably a reference to the day God will visit unbelievers and judge them (i.e., the great white throne judgment). This seems more likely than that it is the day when God will visit Christians (i.e., the Rapture). The writers of Scripture do not refer to Christians' departure from this world as an occasion when unbelievers will glorify God. However when unbelievers bow before God they will glorify Him (e.g., Phil. 2:10-11). For the original readers this would have applied to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
"This brief section sketches Peter's 'battle plan' for the inevitable confrontation between Christians and Roman society. . . .
"The conflict in society is won not by aggressive behavior but by 'good conduct' or 'good works' yet to be defined. Peter's vision is that the exemplary behavior of Christians will change the minds of their accusers and in effect 'overcome evil with good,' . . ."
This section of the letter clarifies what it means to function obediently as God's people in a hostile world. It contains one of the tables of household duties or social codes in the New Testament (2:13—3:7; cf. Eph. 5:21—6:9; Col. 3:18—4:1). Luther referred to these sections as Haustafeln, and some scholars still use this technical term when referring to these lists. However, this one begins with instructions regarding the Christian's relationship to the state, which is similar to Romans 13:1-7. It is particularly our duties in view of suffering for our faith that concerned Peter, as is clear from his choice of material.
Peter continued to give directions concerning how the Christian should conduct himself (or herself) when dealing with the state, since his readers faced suffering from this source.
2:13-14 The Christian's relationship to the state and to state officials is quite clear (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Titus 3:1-2).
We are to "submit" to the "authority" of government rulers by obeying them. We should do this, not because these individuals are personally worthy of our submission necessarily, but "for the Lord's sake," because by submitting to them, we honor God by obeying His Word (cf. Matt. 22:21).
Peter reminded his readers that government has a valid and necessary God-appointed purpose ("punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right"). The presence of political corruption should not blind us to the legitimate role of government that God has ordained.
Peter believed that there was a proper place for civil disobedience, however (cf. Acts 4:19-20). It is any occasion when the laws of human government make it illegal to obey God (such as a law that forces Christians to violate their conscience, e.g., making them have abortions, or to worship a different "god" than the biblical God). In such a case, we should obey God rather than man. However, we should also realize that in disobeying the law, we will probably have to bear the consequences of disobeying. The consequences may involve a fine, imprisonment, or even death.
"Ever since Christianity was first preached the Christian citizen has been a puzzle both to himself and to his rulers. By the elementary necessities of his creed he has been a man living in two worlds. In one he has been a member of a national community, in the other of a community 'taken out of the nations.' In one he has been bound to obey and enforce the laws of his State, in the other to measure his conduct by standards not recognized by those laws and often inconsistent with them. This dualism has been made tolerable only by the prospect of a reconciliation. That prospect is, again, an elementary necessity of the Christian creed. Somehow, somewhere, the conflict of loyalties will end. The kingdom of this world will pass; the Kingdom of God will be established."
Some Christians have taken the position that believers are free to disobey their governments if the government permits conduct that is contrary to God's will. Consequently, some Christians mistakenly feel justified in bombing abortion clinics, for example. However, cases of apostolic civil disobedience, recorded in Scripture, involved situations in which believers had to disobey God's will. Christians should practice civil disobedience only when the government requires its citizens to disobey God, not when it only permits them to disobey Him. Currently the United States government permits abortion, for example, but it does not require it.
". . . the principle of the redeemed Christian life must not be self-assertion or mutual exploitation, but the voluntary subordination of oneself to others (cf. Rom. xii. 10; Eph. v. 21; Phil. ii. 3 f.)."
2:15 In the context, Peter meant that by obeying the law, we can obviate unnecessary and illegitimate criticism. Jesus did this by faithfully paying His taxes (Matt. 17:24-27; 22:21). Note that Jesus also told His disciples to pay their taxes even though Rome used their tax money for purposes contrary to God's will. Paul taught that Christians should pay their taxes, too (Rom. 13:6-7). Peter had learned that physical retaliation was not best, when he tried to defend Jesus by attacking the high priest's servant in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:50-54; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10-11).
2:16 Christians are "free" in the sense of being under no obligations to God to gain His acceptance. He has accepted us because of what Jesus Christ did for us.
Also we are "free" from the tyranny of Satan. We are no longer his slaves. We should not use this "freedom" to sin ("for evil"), but to refrain from sinning and to serve God.
"Liberty misused is like a mighty river flooding its banks and bringing terrible destruction upon all in its path. Liberty used as service is like a mighty river flowing within its banks bringing life and refreshment to all who drink of its waters."
2:17 These four injunctions summarize our social obligations. The first two and the last two are pairs. We should respect everyone ("honor all people"), but we should "love" fellow believers ("the brotherhood"). "God" deserves "fear," whereas the emperor ("king") is worthy of (expected to receive) respect ("honor"). These two pairs connect with Jesus' teachings that we should love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35), and "render to Caesar what is his, and to God what is His" (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25).
"All people" are worthy of "honor," if for no other reason than because they reflect the image of God. Our primary responsibility to other Christians is to show them "love" (cf. 1:22; John 13:35). Our primary responsibility to God is to show Him "fear" ("reverence," cf. 1:17).
Peter added a final word about the "king." He probably did so because his readers found it especially difficult to "honor" the Roman emperor, who was evidently "Nero" when Peter wrote this epistle (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-2). The distinction between "fear" and "honor" may imply that the emperor was not on the same plane as God. Citizens in Asia Minor at this time were encouraged to view the emperor as God.
"Peter called believers to a different spirit, a spirit of deference—even while experiencing undeserved persecution. The word 'deference' conveys the idea of thoughtful consideration of another individual's desires or feelings or the courteous, respectful, or ingratiating regard for another's wishes. . . .
Respect is not the same as "honor." We may not respect someone, but we can and should still honor him or her. For example, I have a friend whose father was an alcoholic. My friend did not respect his father—who was frequently drunk, often humiliated his wife and children, and failed to provide for his family adequately. Nevertheless my friend honored his father because he was his father. He demonstrated honor by taking him home when his father could not get home by himself. My friend, the son, sometimes had to defend his father from people who would have taken advantage of him when he was drunk.
Similarly, we may not be able to respect certain government officials because of their personal behavior or beliefs. Still, we can and should "honor" them, because they occupy an office that places them in a position of authority over us. We honor them because they occupy the office; we do not just honor the office. Peter commanded us to honor the king and all who are in authority over us, not just the offices they occupy. We may not respect someone, but we can and should honor them by treating them with respect.
Respecting people and treating them with respect are two different things. Feeling respect for someone is different than showing respect for someone. Honoring others is our responsibility; earning our respect is theirs. This is especially difficult when those in authority are persecuting us.
Peter proceeded to address the situation of Christians working under the authority of others.
"The unusual fact, unnoticed by most Bible readers, is that he [Peter], along with Paul (1 Cor. 7:21; Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1 Tim. 6:1-2; Tit. 2:9-10) and later Christian writers (Did. 4:11; Barn. 19:7), addresses slaves at all, for Jewish and Stoic duty codes (which in many respects this code in 1 Peter, as well as those in Ephesians and Colossians, resembles) put no such moral demands on slaves, only on masters.
"The reason for this difference between 1 Peter and other moral codes of his time is simple. For society at large slaves were not full persons and thus did not have moral responsibility. For the church slaves were full and equal persons, and thus quite appropriately addressed as such. The church never addressed the institution of slavery in society, for it was outside its province—society in that day did not claim to be representative, and certainly not representative of Christians, concepts that arrived with the Enlightenment—but it did address the situation in the church, where no social distinctions were to be allowed, for all were brothers and sisters (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 3:11; Phile. 16), however shocking that was to society at large."
"The NT accepts this situation [slavery] and never suggests its abolition (cf. I Cor. 7:21); to do otherwise would have required a social revolution wholly out of keeping with the attitude to authority taught in 2:13-17; moreover a rebellion by slaves against authority would have been crushed with terrible cruelty, as had happened more than once in the past."
2:18 In Peter's culture, the servant was the person who faced the most difficulty in relating to the person in authority over him or her. Masters traditionally enjoyed great power over their slaves. The Greek word translated "servants" (oikelai) means domestic servants, but in that society those people were actually "slaves," in that they had some limitations on their personal freedom. In our culture, Peter's directions apply to how we behave in relation to those directly over us in society (employers, bosses, administrators, teachers, et al.).
Again, Peter commanded an attitude of respectful submission (cf. v. 13). The master's personal character or conduct is not the reason for this behavior. We are to respond this way even "to those who are unreasonable," regardless of his or her actions (cf. Eph. 6:5-8).
2:19 The reason we should behave this way is that this behavior is God's will (cf. vv. 13, 17). The fact that this is how God wants us to behave is sufficient reason for compliance. Our conscious commitment to God should move us to do what is right, resulting in a clear "conscience." Probably many of Peter's readers were suffering because of the persecution of their masters (1:6-7). The translators of the word "favor" in this verse and the next in the NASB (Gr. charis) usually rendered it "grace." In this context, it means what counts with God (gains His approval), or what pleases Him, rather than what He gives.
2:20 However, Peter hastened to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable suffering. He did not want his readers to rest comfortably if they were suffering for their own sins. Nevertheless if they were suffering for their testimony ("if you do what is right and suffer for it"), or without having provoked antagonism by improper behavior, they could rest confidently because God approved their conduct, even if other people did not. What God rewards is endurance in His will (cf. James 1:4).
"Although v 20 has domestic servants particularly in mind, neither it nor anything that follows is limited to them. Their experience, whether actual or hypothetical, becomes a paradigm for the experience of all Christians everywhere in the empire. The position of a household slave was tenuous, subject to the character and moods of the owner. Despite the justice of the state, the position of Christians in the empire was also tenuous, subject to differing local conditions and sudden changes in the public mood."
2:21 Part of the Christian's calling (1:1; 2:9) includes suffering (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus Christ suffered for His righteous conduct at the hands of sinners (cf. Matt. 26:67; Mark 14:65). We, too, can expect that our righteous behavior will draw the same response from the ungodly of our day (Matt. 11:29; 16:24; Luke 14:27; Acts 14:22).
Whereas Jesus' atonement set an example for us, it accomplished much more than that. Peter cited only His "example" here, in view of his purpose, which was to encourage his readers to endure suffering with the proper spirit. They also needed to remember that their experience duplicated that of Jesus ("follow in His steps"). They were like children who place foot after foot in the prints of their older brother who walks before them in the snow (cf. Rom. 4:12; 2 Cor. 12:18). The Greek word translated "example" (hypogrammon) refers to a writing or drawing that someone placed under another sheet of paper, so he or she could trace on the upper sheet. In the next few verses, Peter expounded on Jesus' example at length.
"Nothing seems more unworthy and therefore less tolerable, than undeservedly to suffer; but when we turn our eyes to the Son of God, this bitterness is mitigated; for who would refuse to follow him going before us?"
2:22 Peter applied this prophecy to Jesus Christ (Isa. 53:9).
This is quite a statement: "Who committed no sin . . ."! Peter had lived with Jesus for more than three years and had observed Him closely, yet he could say that Jesus never sinned.
The absence of deceitful speech would have been ". . . particularly applicable to slaves in the empire, where glib, deceitful speech was one of their notorious characteristics, adroit evasions and excuses being often their sole means of self-protection."
2:23 Peter referred specifically to Jesus' sufferings when He was on trial and during His crucifixion. Certainly Peter's readers could find a strong example to follow there. "Revile" means to heap abuse on someone. Often our threats are empty; we cannot follow through with them. However, Jesus could have followed through. Instead, He trusted God ("kept entrusting Himself to Him") to deal with His persecutors justly ("who judges righteously"), as we should.
"Peter's picture of what Jesus did not do seems clearly molded by his memory of the messianic picture in Isaiah 53:6-7. Yet rather than quoting this passage, he gives his own confirmatory witness, thereby underlining the veracity of the prophetic portrayal."
2:24 Jesus' sufferings reached their climax "on the cross." Peter taught that Jesus paid the penalty for "our sins," and laid down His life ("bore [them] in His body") as payment for those sins (i.e., penal substitution; cf. Deut. 21:23). He viewed Jesus' "cross" as an altar on which a sacrifice was placed.
"The social code in I Peter is unique among those in the NT because it bases its instructions to slaves on the example of Christ who took the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7) and bore the punishments, reviling, beating, crucifixion, of a slave."
We could translate the second part of this verse as follows: ". . . that, having broken with our sins, we might live for righteousness." Jesus Christ's death separated our sins from us. Consequently we can now "live [unto] righteousness" rather than unto sin (cf. Rom. 6:1-11).
"The idea is that, Christ having died for sins, and to sin, as our proxy or substitute, our consequent standing before God is that of those who have no more connection with our old sins, or with the life of sinning."
Some writers have cited the third part of this verse to support the non-biblical doctrine that Jesus, by His death, made healing from any physical ailment something that every Christian can claim in this life. This is the belief that there is "healing in the atonement." The context of Isaiah 53, as well as the past tense "were healed" here, implies spiritual healing from the fatal effects of sin, rather than healing from present physical afflictions. Peter used healing as a metaphor for spiritual conversion, as Isaiah did (cf. Mark 2:17; Luke 4:23). "Wounds" refers to the bruising and swelling left by a blow that a fist or whip delivered.
"The Greek word for stripes ["wounds"] is singular rather than plural. Thus our spiritual healing comes neither from Jesus' day-to-day sufferings nor from His sufferings that led to the Cross, but from the one ultimate wound—His death."
Undoubtedly some of Peter's original readers had received wounds in a similar fashion, or were in danger of receiving them.
2:25 Peter concluded his citation of Jesus' example (vv. 21-24). He reminded his readers that they, too, like the "sheep" Isaiah referred to in the passage he just cited, had once wandered from God ("were continually straying"). Nevertheless they had now returned to the Good "Shepherd," Jesus Christ, who would fulfill the function of a shepherd by guarding their "souls" from hostile adversaries. Their enemies might assail their bodies, but the Lord would preserve their souls (whole persons) safe (cf. 1:3-5).
Having explained before how Christians should conduct themselves in the world, Peter next gave directions about how Christian wives and husbands should behave. He did this to help his readers to identify and choose to practice appropriate conduct in family life during times of suffering, as well as at other times.
". . . he [Peter] discusses husbands and wives, and unlike the Pauline Haustafeln, he omits references to children. The reason for this omission is simple: He probably did not consider children who had one believing parent outside the true people of God (i.e., the nations), whereas the husbands of some Christian women certainly were. Peter's concern at this point is not life within the Christian community, but life at those points where the Christian community interfaces with the world around it. . . .
"But what was probably surprising to the original readers is that here in a seemingly traditional ethical section wives are addressed at all. In that society women were expected to follow the religion of their husbands; they might have their own cult on the side, but the family religion was that of the husband. Peter clearly focuses his address on women whose husbands are not Christians (not that he would give different advice to women whose husbands were Christians), and he addresses them as independent moral agents whose decision to turn to Christ he supports and whose goal to win their husbands he encourages. This is quite a revolutionary attitude for that culture."
This section, like the preceding one addressed to slaves, has three parts: an exhortation to defer (vv. 1-2; cf. 2:18), an admonition about pleasing God (vv. 3-4; cf. 2:18-20), and a precedent for the advocated attitude or action (vv. 5-6; cf. 2:21-25). The section on respect for everyone (2:13-17) contains the first two of these three parts (2:13-14 and 15-17), but not the third.
3:1-2 "In the same way" refers to the spirit of deference (humble submission) that Peter had already advocated regarding our dealings with government authorities (2:13-17) and people in direct authority over us (2:18-25). Primarily he meant: "Be submissive" in the same way Christ submitted to the Father (2:21-24).
"The opening words ["in the same way"] are not intended to equate the submissiveness due from wives with that expected from slaves. Rather, as in [verse] 7, the Greek adverb (homoios) harks back to 2:13, implying that the patriarchal principle of the subordination of the wife to her husband is not a matter of human convention but the order which the Creator has established . . ."
Clearly Peter was speaking of the relationship of wives to their husbands, not the relationship of women to men generically. Neither was he addressing only wives with unsaved husbands, as is clear from the clause "even if any are disobedient." He said "your own men" (i.e., your husbands). A wife has a special relationship to her husband in that she "belongs" to him (and he "belongs" to her), which is not true of the relationship of all women to all men generally. Even more specifically, Peter was referring to wives whose husbands were "disobedient to the word" (i.e., unbelievers, cf. 2:8).
Today, many Christians believe wives are equal in authority with their husbands under God (the egalitarian position). Note that other admonitions to be submissive surround this section in which Peter called on wives to submit to their husbands (2:13, 18, 23; 3:8). Wives are not the only people Peter commanded to be submissive. Submission should characterize every Christian. The Greek word hypotasso ("to submit") has in view the maintenance of God's willed order, not personal inferiority of any kind. This word may denote either voluntary or forced behavior, but not any sense of inferiority.
Peter did not state the reason wives should submit to their own husbands in this passage, nor did he give the reason we should submit to rulers or masters, other than that this is God's will (cf. Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 2:9-15; Tit. 2:4-5). God gave another reason elsewhere in Scripture, however (Gen. 2:18-23; 3:16; cf. 1 Tim. 2:13-14). This reason is, that God has so ordered the human race that we must all observe His structure of authority, so that peace and order may prevail.
As all employees should submit to their masters, even the "unreasonable" (2:18), so all wives should submit to their husbands, even the unbelieving ("disobedient"). In view of his terminology "be won" (v. 1), it seems clear that Peter had in mind the spiritual conversion of an unsaved husband. Peter did not promise that all unbelieving husbands would inevitably become Christians as a result of the behavior he prescribed. That decision lies with the husband. Nevertheless the wife can have confidence that she has been faithful to God if she relates to her husband submissively.
For a classic example of a Christian woman leading her husband to faith in Christ through her virtuous example, see The Confessions of St. Augustine. The woman was Monica, Augustine's mother, and her husband was Patricius.
Should a Christian wife submit to her husband even if he directs her to sin? Some evangelicals answer yes, and appeal to Ephesians 5:24 for support. Others say no, but argue that submission should extend to everything except sin. The examples of suffering, that Peter cited as good models for Christians in 2:13-25, did not involve sinning. He said wives should submit "in the same way" (3:1). Furthermore, the wife's behavior is to be "chaste" (3:2) or morally pure (Gr. agnos).
Peter held up "Sarah" as an example (3:6), not because she submitted to Abraham even to the point of sinning in Genesis 12 and 20, but because she submitted to him. She called him her "lord" in Genesis 18:12. Ephesians 5:24, which calls on wives to submit to their husbands in "everything" (Gr. pas), does not mean in every thing including sin (cf. Col. 3:25). Frequently pas does not mean every individual thing (cf. Matt. 8:33; Rom. 8:32; 14:2; 1 Cor. 1:5; 3:21-22; 6:12; 9:12; 10:23; 14:40; 2 Cor. 5:18; Phil. 4:13, et al.). Nevertheless, short of sinning, Peter urged Christian wives to obey their husbands. A primary responsibility of every Christian is to obey God.
It is specifically the wife's behavior, in contrast to her speech, that Peter said may be effective in winning an unsaved husband. "A word" includes preaching as well as the Word of God. Peter was not forbidding speaking to unsaved husbands about the Lord, or sharing Scripture verses if the husband would be receptive to those. His point was, simply, that a godly wife's conduct is going to be more influential than anything she might say. "Chaste" is a general term describing her purity, while "respectful" reflects her attitude toward her husband that rises out of her attitude toward God's will.
Submission involves at least four things: First, it begins with an attitude of entrusting oneself to God (cf. 2:23-25). The focus of our life must be on Jesus Christ. Second, submission requires respectful behavior (3:1-2). Nagging is not respectful behavior. Third, submission involves the development of a godly character (3:3-5). Fourth, submission includes doing what is right (3:6). It does not include violating other Scriptural principles. Submission is imperative for oneness in marriage.
3:3-4 Peter was not telling wives to refrain from giving attention to their physical appearances (specifically: coiffure, jewelry, and dress), as the NASB makes clear. His point was that this should not be their total or primary concern. He urged the cultivation of the inner person ("hidden person of the heart") as well. Beauty is more than skin deep. He contrasted what human society values and what God values. A "gentle" disposition and a tranquil ("quiet") "spirit" can make even a plain woman very attractive, not only to God but to men (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Tim. 2:9-10). The Greek word for "adornment" (kosmos) is the one from which we get our word "cosmetics."
3:5-6 "His [Peter's] concern is that the church not be known for its production of rebellious wives who have an attitude of superiority, but of women who, because they know God will reward them and set everything right, demonstrate the virtue of gentle submission where Christianly possible."
"Sarah" is a good example of such a woman. We see her attitude of respect in the way she spoke to Abraham (v. 2). "Lord" sounds servile to us, but an equally acceptable translation of the Greek word is "sir." The point is, that she verbally expressed her submission to him in a way that was appropriate in her culture. Women who behave as Sarah did show that they are "her daughters (children)" in spirit. Such behavior demonstrates trust in God and holiness, separation from sin to God's will.
"His [Peter's] argument is from the greater to the lesser: if Sarah 'obeyed' Abraham and called him 'Lord,' the Christian wives in Asia should at least treat their husbands with deference and respect."
"Without being frightened by any fear" (v. 6) is not a condition for becoming a true daughter of Sarah, on top of doing what is right. It is rather the consequence of adopting the behavior that Peter advocated. If a Christian wife was suffering for her faith because of her conduct, she could gain great confidence by doing what Peter counseled and what Sarah practiced. She could understand that any suffering that came her way was not a result of her sinful behavior, but in spite of her godly behavior (cf. 2:20; Prov. 3:25).
"The sense is that these Christian women are to let nothing terrifying frighten them from their course. Pagan women may disdain and insult them because they have adopted a nobler wifehood, they yet remain unafraid. Pagan husbands may resent their Christianity; this, too, does not frighten them."
Why did Peter write more about the conduct of women (vv. 1-6) than of men (v. 7)? He evidently did so because his concern was for Christian wives who were married to pagan husbands. A Christian wife married to a pagan husband was in a more vulnerable position, than a Christian husband married to a pagan wife, in that culture. Normally, pagan women married to Christian husbands would adopt their husbands' faith. In Roman society, a wife would normally adopt her husband's religion.
"His emphasis throughout is on those points at which the Christian community faces outward to confront Roman society. Probably for this reason he omits children and parents altogether; the parent-child relationship (at least in regard to younger children) is not normally one in which belief and unbelief confront each other . . ."
The Roman author Cato wrote, "If you were to catch your wife in an act of infidelity, you can kill her with impunity without a trial; but, if she were to catch you, she would not venture to touch you with her finger, and, indeed, she has no right."
The Christian wife's new freedom in Christ created new problems and challenges for her. Apparently Peter wanted to communicate more encouragement (vv. 5-6) and tenderness to the women because of their "weaker," more vulnerable state, not because he believed they were greater sinners than their husbands. What follows in verse 7 is just as challenging as what we have read in verses 1-6.
"It is clear that Peter does not think about the possibility of a husband with a non-Christian wife, for if a family head in that culture changed his religion it would be normal that his wife, servants, and children also changed."
"In 1 Peter 3:1-6 Christian wives are instructed to behave with deference as they encounter the difficulties of living with an unbelieving husband. Similarly in verse 7 Christian husbands are told to honor their wives in unfair circumstances brought about by the wife's being the weaker vessel."
Another possibility is that these husbands were suffering for their faith.
As with his instructions to wives, Peter began his counsel to the husbands with a command to think right first (cf. 3:1-2). He said men should cultivate "understanding." They should dwell with their wives "in an intelligent and reasonable manner." This brief charge carries profound implications. It requires active listening to the wife, as well as a study of her temperament, emotions, personality, and thought patterns. It is a tall order to know one's wife, to understand her, even to be "understanding" with her. However, the knowledge in view is probably primarily knowledge of God's Word concerning the proper treatment of one's wife.
By comparing a wife to a "weaker" vessel, Peter was not implying that wives or women are inferior to husbands or males, or that they are weaker in every way or most ways. Obviously, in many marriages the wife is the stronger person: emotionally, mentally, spiritually, morally, socially, and or physically. Nevertheless, physically the wife is usually weaker than her husband. Men tend to choose as their wives women who are not as strong or muscular as they are. Furthermore, men are generally physically stronger than women. In view of this, husbands need to treat their wives with special consideration. Both the husband and the wife are vessels, but husbands are more typically similar to iron skillets, whereas wives resemble china vases, being more delicate. They are equally important, but different.
Peter banished any implication of essential "inferiority," with his reminder that the wife is a "fellow heir" of God's "grace" just as much as the husband. God deals with both types of people the same when it comes to bestowing grace on them. He shows no favoritism or partiality because of their genders. Wives may normally be more delicate in some respects than their husbands, but spiritually they are equal. "Life" probably refers to both physical life and spiritual life, since husbands and wives share both equally.
The husband who does not treat his wife with honor will not get answers to his "prayers" to the degree he could if he treated her with honor (cf. Matt. 6:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:8). In other words, disobedience to the will of God regarding how a man treats his wife hinders the husband's fellowship with God.
"Egkoptesthai ['be hindered'], to have an obstacle thrown in the way, does not restrict the thought to preventing the prayers from reaching their destination at God's throne of grace. The thought includes all manner of hindering. A husband who treats his wife in the wrong way will himself be unfit to pray, will scarcely pray at all. There will be no family altar, no life of prayer. His worship in the congregation will be affected."
A man's selfishness and egotism in his marriage will hurt both his relationship with God and his relationship with his wife.
One of a husband's primary responsibilities in a marriage is caring for his wife. Caring requires understanding. If you are married, what are your wife's greatest needs? Ask her. What are her greatest concerns? Ask her. What are her hopes and dreams? Ask her. What new vistas would she like to explore? Ask her, and keep on asking her over the years! Her answers will enable you to understand and care for her more effectively.
"In my premarital counseling as a pastor, I often gave the couple pads of paper and asked them to write down the three things each one thinks the other enjoys doing the most. Usually, the prospective bride made her list immediately; the man would sit and ponder. And usually the girl was right but the man wrong! . . .
Peter concluded this section, of instructions concerning respect for others, with a discussion of the importance of loving our enemies.
3:8 "To sum up" concludes the section on respect for others (2:13—3:12). This verse deals with attitudes. Again we note that Peter regarded attitudes as foundational to actions (cf. vv. 1, 7; James 3).
"Harmonious" implies cooperation when there are individual differences. These differences can have a pleasing rather than an irritating effect. We do not all need to sing exactly the same tune, but our tune should harmonize with those of our brethren. We should be able to work together—as the different parts of an athlete's body work together—to reach our common goal victoriously.
"Sympathetic" means suffering with another by entering into, and sharing the feelings of others, rather than by having compassion on another person from a distance. It implies bearing one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2).
"Brotherly" looks at the special love that unites believers (cf. 1:22; 2:17).
"Kindhearted" means feeling affectionately, compassionately, and deeply for someone else.
The person who is "humble in spirit" is willing to put someone else's interests and needs before his or her own (cf. Phil. 2:3-4). This would apply to God's purposes as well, not just the needs of other people.
These five qualities are vital to effective interpersonal relationships. They are also indispensable for maintaining oneness in marriage.
3:9 Like Jesus and Paul, Peter urged his readers not to take revenge ("not returning evil for evil"). We should return positive, good deeds ("giving a blessing") for evil ones (2:23; cf. Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:9-18; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Thess. 5:15).
"As Christians we can live on one of three levels. We can return evil for good, which is the satanic level. We can return good for good and evil for evil, which is the human level. Or, we can return good for evil, which is the divine level. Jesus is the perfect example of this latter approach (1 Peter 2:21-23)."
The basis for the Christian's good will to others, even our enemies, is the mercy we have received and continue to receive from God. God blessed us when we were His enemies (Rom. 5:10). Our "blessing" (Gr. eulogein, lit. to speak well) may be verbal or tangible.
Peter's reference to inheriting a blessing reminds us of the inheritance he spoke of earlier, and urged us to keep in view (1:4). However, God will give us this part of our inheritance only if we faithfully do His will (cf. Heb. 12:17).
The type of relationship in which we return insult for insult is one that intends to hurt the other person with remarks or actions. This approach springs from an unforgiving and hardened heart attitude. We can insult another person by hiding (the quiet method) or by hurling verbal or physical abuse (the noisy method). An insult can lead another person to either clam up or blow up. Both clamming up and blowing up produce bitterness and isolation. The "insult for insult" response often occurs when two people develop habits of reacting in certain ways in certain similar situations. Therefore it is often helpful to analyze the circumstances that seem to produce this response inevitably.
The "blessing for insult" response, however, is one in which we react kindly when we suffer ill treatment. It springs from an attitude of forgiveness. It has its focus on God and the promises of His Word. Instead of reacting in anger, we respond with forgiveness. The consequences of taking this approach in interpersonal relationships are: getting a blessing, having a full life, and walking with God (vv. 9-12).
How does one give a blessing instead of an insult? We refrain from speaking evil, walk away from it, do positive good, and seek to make peace rather than trouble (vv. 10-12). Our attitude is crucial. What kind of relationship will you seek to develop and maintain with your mate? The insult for insult type results in isolation, but the blessing for insult type results in oneness in marriage.
3:10-12 To strengthen his case, Peter again cited an Old Testament passage that supported what he said (Ps. 34:12-16). However, the primary purpose for this quotation seems to be more clarification than proof. Actually, verses 8 and 9 are Peter's exposition of the psalm passage that he now quoted. "Evil" (v. 10) hurts, and guile ("deceit") misleads. God will judge ("the face of the Lord is against") "those who do [any kind of] evil" (v. 12).
This quotation (vv. 10-12) appropriately summarizes all of Peter's instructions concerning proper Christian conduct during persecution (2:11—3:12).
Peter previously explained how a Christian can rejoice in his sufferings, having set forth his responsibilities and outlined specific conduct in times of suffering. He next emphasized the inner confidence a Christian can have when experiencing persecution for his or her faith, in order to equip his readers to overcome their sufferings effectively.
3:13 This statement carries on what the psalmist said in the quotation just cited. If God will punish those who do evil (v. 12), "who" will "harm" those who do "good"? God will certainly not, is the implication, and under normal circumstances no other person will either.
". . . Christians have an incredible contribution to make to the society in which they live by breaking the cycle of people returning evil for evil. As we begin to do good, most people will return that good by doing good. What a marvelous ministry—with very immediate and measurable results. Just as people tend to return evil for evil, they usually return good for good. Indeed, when you do good, blessing comes to everyone involved."
3:14 Nevertheless, people are perverse and we do experience suffering for doing good ("for the sake of righteousness") sometimes. In such cases, we need to focus our attention on the blessing that will come to us for enduring persecution when we do good (cf. Matt. 5:10; Luke 1:48). Peter quoted the Lord's exhortation to Isaiah, when the prophet learned that the people of Judah and Jerusalem would not respond to his ministry positively (Isa. 8:12-13). God promised to take care of Isaiah, and He did. Though Isaiah eventually died a martyr's death, he persevered in his calling because God sustained him. This is what God will do for the Christian, and it gives us the courage we need to continue serving him faithfully in spite of persecution.
3:15 Rather than being fearful, we should commit ourselves afresh to Christ ("sanctify Christ . . . in [our] hearts as") "Lord" ("Yahweh of armies," Isa. 8:13) by purposing to continue to live for Him. We should also have the reason we are living as we do on the tip of our tongues ("ready to make a defense"), so that whenever an opportunity arises, we can explain why we behave as we do (cf. Acts 22:1; 25:16). Our inquisitive questioner may not ask about our "hope" per se. Nevertheless our "hope" is the root cause of our behavior, and should be the subject of our answer. We should give this answer ("defense") with a gentle spirit to those asking, and in a reverent spirit toward God.
3:16 A "good conscience" is possible when we know our suffering has happened in spite of "good behavior," not because of bad behavior (cf. 2:19; 3:4, 6). A simple explanation of our good conduct may take the wind out of the sails of ("put to shame") our critics.
"Conscience may be compared to a window that lets in the light of God's truth. If we persist in disobeying, the window gets dirtier and dirtier, until the light cannot enter. This leads to a 'defiled conscience' (Titus 1:15). A 'seared conscience' is one that has been so sinned against that it no longer is sensitive to what is right and wrong (1 Tim. 4:2). It is even possible for the conscience to be so poisoned that it approves things that are bad and accuses when the person does good! This the Bible calls 'an evil conscience' (Heb. 10:22). . . .
3:17 If it is God's "will" for us to suffer misunderstanding, abuse, or bullying, "it is better" that that suffering be for good conduct ("doing . . . right") than for bad ("doing . . . wrong"; cf. Rom. 8:28). Peter probably meant these words as assurance rather than as admonition. He meant that we are much better off, when we suffer, than the evildoers are who oppress us.
Peter now reminded his readers of the consequences of Jesus' response to unjustified persecution. He did so to strengthen their resolve to rededicate themselves to follow God's will wholeheartedly and confidently. He also wanted to assure them of their ultimate triumph in Christ.
Verses 18-22 contain some very difficult exegetical problems. Who are the "spirits" who received a "proclamation" (v. 19)? When did Jesus make this proclamation? What was its content? Why did Peter mention "Noah"? In what sense does "baptism" save us?
One group of interpreters believes Jesus went to the realm of the dead and preached to Noah's contemporaries between His crucifixion and His resurrection. Some of these say He extended an offer of salvation to them. Others feel He announced condemnation to the unbelievers. Still others hold that He announced good news to the saved among them.
A second group believes Jesus preached to Noah's sinful generation while Noah was living on the earth. They see Him doing so through Noah.
A third group holds that Jesus proclaimed His victory on the cross to fallen angels. Some advocates of this view say this took place in hell between His crucifixion and His resurrection. Others believe it happened during His ascension to heaven.
I shall discuss these views in the exposition to follow.
In 2:21-25, Peter mentioned Jesus' behavior during His passion (2:21-23), His death on the cross (2:24a), and His present ministry as the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (2:24b-25). In 3:18-22, he cited Jesus' resurrection and ascension into glory, the "missing links" of the previous record of Jesus' experiences. Peter proceeded to explain the significance of Jesus' resurrection and exaltation, not only for believers, but also for the whole universe. Whereas the previous example of Jesus stressed the way He suffered while doing good, this one emphasizes the theme of Jesus' vindication, which is major in 1 Peter following the quotation of Psalm 34 in 3:10-12.
3:18 "For" connects verses 18-22 with 13-17, but "Christ also" recalls and resumes the example of Jesus Christ that Peter cited in 2:21-25. Peter used the same phrase there to introduce Jesus Christ as an example of suffering. Suffering for doing good versus evil is the point of comparison in both passages.
"Once for all" emphasizes the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. It does not need repeating (as in the Roman Catholic mass) or adding to (by human effort [works], cf. Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:10). The emphasis is on the finality of His sacrifice ("once for all," Gr. hapax), rather than on the extent of the atonement ("for all").
His was also a vicarious sacrifice: the Just One died for the "unjust ones" as their Substitute (1:19; 2:21-24; 4:1; cf. Isa. 53:11; Matt. 27:19; Luke 23:47; Rom. 5:6-10; 1 John 2:1, 29; 3:7). The purpose of Jesus Christ's death was to "bring us [into fellowship with] God."
". . . no other NT writer has this active picture of Jesus leading the Christian to God. But it fits with Peter's usual conception of the Christian life as an active close following of Jesus (2:21; 4:13)."
The phrase "having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" has received several different interpretations.
Some interpreters believe that "flesh" refers to the material part of Jesus Christ's person, and "spirit" to the immaterial part. Supporters of this view argue that we should regard "flesh" and "spirit" as two parts of the Lord's human nature (cf. Matt. 26:41; Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 5:5). The contrast then would be that Jesus' body ("flesh") died, but His immaterial part ("spirit") experienced resurrection.
The problem with this view is that no article precedes either "flesh" or "spirit" in the Greek text. The absence of the article usually stresses the quality of the noun. This would not be normal if Peter meant to contrast Jesus' body and His spirit. He would have included an article before each noun. The absence of the articles suggests a special meaning of "flesh" and "spirit." Furthermore, Jesus' resurrection involved both the material and immaterial parts of His person, not just His spirit.
Another view is that we should take the Greek nouns (sarki and pneumati, translated "in the flesh" and "in the spirit") as instrumental ("by the flesh" and "by the spirit") rather than as dative. The contrast, according to this interpretation, is between wicked men, who put Jesus to death by fleshly means, and the Holy Spirit, who raised Him. However, the Greek dative case ("in the flesh") is probably what Peter intended here rather than the instrumental case ("by the flesh"). This is probably a dative of respect. It is not who was responsible for Jesus' death and resurrection, that is the issue, but how Jesus suffered death and experienced resurrection. Moreover, if "spirit" means the Holy Spirit, then its meaning as used in context is not parallel with "flesh."
A third view is that "flesh" refers to Jesus' death, and "spirit" refers to His resurrection. The weakness of this view is that it is redundant. Peter said, according to this view, that Jesus was put to death in death and that He was made alive in resurrection.
A fourth view sees "flesh" as describing Jesus' pre-resurrection condition (following the Incarnation), and "spirit" as referring to His post-resurrection condition. Peter used the same terminology in 4:6, where he referred to Christians who had died but were now alive. I prefer this view.
"As in Rom. i.3f.; 1 Tim. iii.16, flesh and spirit do not here designate complimentary parts of Christ, but the whole of Christ regarded from different standpoints. By flesh is meant Christ in His human sphere of existence, considered as a man among men. By spirit is meant Christ in His heavenly spiritual sphere of existence, considered as divine spirit (see on 1. 11); and this does not exclude His bodily nature, since as risen from the dead it is glorified."
"'Flesh' and 'spirit' do not refer to two 'parts' of Christ, i.e., his body and his soul; nor does the 'spirit' refer to the Holy Spirit or Christ's human spirit. Rather, 'flesh' refers to Christ in his human sphere of life and 'spirit' refers to Christ in his resurrected sphere of life (cf. [William J.] Dalton, [Christ's Proclamation to the Spirits,] pp. 124-24; TDNT, 6:417, 447; 7:143)."
"If 'flesh' is the sphere of human limitations, of suffering, and of death (cf. 4:1), 'Spirit' is the sphere of power, vindication, and a new life (cf. [F. W.] Beare, [The First Epistle of Peter: The Greek Text with Introduction and Notes, p.] 169). Both spheres affect Christ's (or anyone else's) whole person; one cannot be assigned to the body and the other to the soul . . .
"The statement that Christ was 'made alive in the Spirit,' therefore, means simply that he was raised from the dead, not as a spirit, but bodily (as resurrection always is in the NT), and in a sphere in which the Spirit and power of God are displayed without hindrance or human limitation (cf. 1:21)."
Jesus Christ became the Victor rather than a victim. All who trust Him share in that victory (cf. vv. 13-17). This verse is an encouragement to Peter's readers, that, even though Jesus died because He remained committed to God's will, He experienced resurrection. Therefore, we also should remain faithful, with the confident hope that God will also vindicate us.
3:19-20 Peter here introduced more information about Jesus' activity in His spirit (i.e., His post-resurrection sphere of life), in addition to what he said about His resurrection from the dead (v. 18), to encourage his readers.
"In which" refers back to the spiritual sphere of life in which Jesus Christ now lives (v. 18). The identity of the "spirits in prison" is problematic. The plural "spirits" describes human beings in only one other place in the New Testament (Heb. 12:23), but it describes evil spirit beings frequently (Matt. 10:1; Mark 1:27; 3:11; 5:13; 6:7: Luke 4:36; 6:18; Acts 5:16; Rev. 16:13; et al.). Thus we would expect that evil angels are in view, but does what Peter said about them confirm this identification? He said they are ("now") in prison (cf. 2 Pet. 2:4), and that they "were disobedient . . . in the days of Noah" (v. 20).
One view is that after His resurrection, Jesus went to Sheol and preached good news to "the disembodied spirits, which were kept shut up (Jude 6: 2 Pet. ii. 4) in the place of the departed awaiting the final judgment . . ."
Some interpreters believe that the incident involving the sons of God and the daughters of men (Gen. 6:1-4) is what Peter had in view here. But there are some problems with this theory. First, that incident evidently did not take place during the construction of the ark, but before construction began. Second, it is improbable that the "sons of God" were angels. Compare also Jesus' implication in Matthew 22:30 that angels do not procreate. Nevertheless these "spirits" could still be angels. If they are fallen angels, Peter may have meant that after Jesus Christ arose, He announced to them that their doom was now sure. He may have done this either by His resurrection itself, or by some special announcement to them.
A more probable explanation is that these "spirits" were the unbelievers who disobeyed God in Noah's day by rejecting his preaching. They are now "spirits," since they died long ago and their bodies have not yet experienced resurrection. He said the "spirits" of these unbelievers are "in prison" now (i.e., Sheol), awaiting resurrection and judgment by God (cf. Rev. 20:11-15). One could say that Jesus proclaimed a message to Noah's unbelieving contemporaries in His spirit (i.e., His spiritual state of life before the Incarnation) through Noah.
Noah was preaching a message that God had given him, and in this sense Jesus Christ spoke through him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). In the same sense, Jesus Christ was speaking through Peter's readers to their unbelieving persecutors, as they bore witness for Him in a hostile world. Noah faced the same type of opposition, in his day, that Peter's original readers did in theirs, and we do in ours.
Another view is that the people to whom Jesus preached were those alive after Pentecost, who were likewise prisoners, in bondage to Satan and sin. Jesus preached to them through the apostles. The obvious problem with this view is that Peter linked these people with Noah.
God would bring Peter's readers safely through their trials, just as He had brought Noah safely through his trials into a whole new world. God had done this for Noah, even though he and his family were a small minority in their day. Furthermore, as God judged the mockers in Noah's day, so will He judge those who persecuted Peter's readers.
"The phrase 'in the days of Noah' may well be based on the Gospel tradition and on Jesus' analogy between Noah's time and the time immediately preceding the end of the age (cf. Matt 24:37-39//Luke 17:26-27)."
God is so patient that he waited for 120 years before sending the Flood in Noah's day (Gen. 6:3). Today He also waits, so patiently that some people conclude that He will never judge (cf. 2 Pet. 3:3-4). Relatively few will escape God's coming judgment, just as only eight escaped His former judgment. The rest will die.
3:21a-b The antecedent of "that" seems to be "water" (v. 20). "Baptism . . . saves" Christians "now," as the water that floated Noah's ark saved him, but drowned his unbelieving antagonists. It does not save us by cleansing us from defilement, either physically or spiritually, but by announcing publicly that the person baptized has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism now delivers ("saves") us from the consequences of siding with the world (cf. James 1:21; 2:24; 2 Cor. 6:17-18; Col. 3:8-9; Heb. 10:22). Baptism is the evidence that a person has made a break with his or her past life, and is now taking a stand with the Savior. It is a pledge (translated "appeal" in the NASB), springing from "a good conscience" (i.e., a conscience that is now right with God; cf. v. 16).
"Corresponding to" (v. 21) is a translation of the Greek word antitypon ("antitype"). This is one of the places in the New Testament where the writer identified something as a type (cf. also Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11; Heb. 9:24). The flood in Noah's day was a "type" (i.e., a divinely intended foreshadowing) for baptism. God washed away from the earth its past evils and sins with the Flood, and Noah and his family could start life anew.
"The flood was for Noah a baptism, as the passage through the Red Sea was for the Israelites; by baptism in the flood he and his family were transferred from the old world to the new; from immediate destruction to lengthened probation; from the companionship of the wicked to communion with God; from the severing of all bonds between the creature and the Creator to the privileges of the covenant: so we by spiritual baptism."
Peter's point in his comments about baptism was this: Through water baptism, his readers had made a public profession of faith in Christ in their community. This had led to persecution. However, by that act of baptism, they had also testified to their ultimate victory over their persecutors. Because they had taken a stand for Jesus Christ, they could be sure that He would stand with them (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12).
Many people who hold to infant baptism appeal to this verse in support of their belief. Most Lutherans, for example, believe that infant baptism guarantees the salvation of the child until he or she becomes old enough to make the faith of his parents, expressed in having their baby baptized, his own (cf. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16). In infant baptism, the Lord theoretically bestows on the child "a good conscience toward God," which is the evidence of salvation. At about 12 years of age, Lutheran children go through instruction to "confirm" them in the faith.
Lutherans believe that infant baptism guarantees the salvation of children, in case they die before making their parents' faith their own. They see a parallel with circumcision in the Old Testament. Roman Catholics and many Presbyterians also baptize infants for the same purpose.
The problem with this interpretation, from my viewpoint, is that Scripture nowhere else makes baptism a condition for salvation. In fact, it consistently warns against adding anything to faith for salvation. Circumcision did not save children under the Old Covenant, any more than baptism does under the New Covenant. Circumcision expressed the faith of the parents. Abraham received the sign of circumcision to demonstrate his faith "on" the male members of his household (Gen. 17).
3:21c-22 Salvation comes, not by baptism, but by faith in Jesus Christ—whose "resurrection" and ascension testify to God's acceptance of, and satisfaction with, His sacrifice (1 John 2:2). First Corinthians 1:17 clarifies that baptism is not required for justification, and Acts 10:47 shows that baptism is a step of obedience for Christians. God has "subjected" all things, even the "powers" behind our persecutors, "to Jesus Christ (Him)" because of His death and resurrection (cf. v. 18). The fact that Jesus Christ now rules over the church, does not mean that He is ruling on the throne of David over the kingdom of David. "Through the resurrection" continues the thought that Peter began in verse 18, from which he digressed in verses 19-21b.
Jesus Christ's ultimate victory, in spite of temporary persecution, should be an encouragement to any suffering disciple of the Savior. Verse 18 describes the saving work of Jesus Christ. Verses 19 and 20 refer to His ministry of proclaiming good news to those destined for judgment, which ministry we in our day must continue faithfully, as Noah did in his. Verse 21 stresses the importance of confessing Christ publicly in baptism, by reminding us of what baptism does and what it does not do. Verse 22 reminds us of our ultimate vindication and destiny.
There is a difference between this reference to Jesus' sufferings and the one in 2:21-24. In the former case, Peter used Jesus as an example of how to respond to suffering. In this case, he showed that as a result of Jesus' sufferings, we can be sure of ultimate triumph, and this gives us confidence as we suffer.
Since Jesus Christ has gained the victory, Peter urged his readers to rededicate themselves to God's will as long as they might live. He wanted to strengthen their resolve to continue to persevere. He resumed here the exhortation that he broke off in 3:17. Generally speaking, verses 1-3 focus on Christian behavior, and verses 4-6 on pagan response.
4:1 Peter's present appeal grew out of what he had just said about Christ's victory (3:18, 21c, 22). In view of His example of committing Himself to accomplishing God's will, Peter called his readers to commit themselves to the same purpose (cf. 3:15). Jesus "suffered" to the extent of dying, and Christians should be willing to suffer to the same extent. Selwyn regarded Peter's statement here as the keystone of his whole doctrinal arch in this epistle.
In the second part of the verse, Peter probably meant that his readers had identified themselves with Christ's suffering and death (in water baptism). They should, therefore, put sin behind them and live a clean life (cf. Rom. 6:1-11). Roman Catholic interpreters have seen this verse as support for their doctrine of purgatory. They believe that Peter meant that suffering purifies the life. The aorist participle (Gr. pathon, "has suffered") normally is antecedent in time to the main verb, which here is in the perfect tense (pepantai, "has ceased"). Suffering precedes ceasing, but Peter apparently meant that suffering with Christ should lead to a more holy life (cf. v. 2). It does not inevitably do so.
4:2 Peter clarified commitment to God's will in this verse. "Time in the flesh" refers to one's mortal lifetime on earth, not to carnal living (cf. 3:18; 4:6); Peter was therefore urging his readers not to live according to the "lusts of men" during their remaining "time in the flesh" or lifetime.
". . . 'the flesh' is not used here or anywhere else in 1 Peter (it is used seven times; all but one of them are in 3:18—4:6) in the Pauline sense of the sinful nature in human beings (as, e.g., in Rom. 7—8), but in the normal Jewish sense of human existence as weak, fallen, and therefore subject to pain and death."
4:3 Peter's readers had already spent too much time living for self in typically unsaved Gentile practices ("carried out the desire of the Gentiles"). Note the prominence of sexual and alcohol related activities here (as in Rom. 13:13-14; Gal. 5:19-21). This verse, along with others (e.g., 1:14; 2:10), suggests that Peter was writing to a predominantly Gentile audience.
4:4 Some of the persecution Peter's readers were experiencing was due to their unwillingness to continue in their old lifestyle with their unsaved friends ("they are surprised that you do not run with them . . ."). This continues to be a common source of persecution for Christians today.
"Unsaved people do not understand the radical change that their friends experience when they trust Christ and become children of God. They do not think it strange when people wreck their bodies, destroy their homes, and ruin their lives by running from one sin to another! But let a drunkard become sober, or an immoral person pure, and the family thinks he has lost his mind!"
4:5 Peter reminded his readers that God would condemn their unsaved friends' behavior ("they will give account to Him"). Consequently they should not return to it. The Judge was already "ready" to "judge" the physically "living" and the physically "dead" (cf. Dan. 3:15 [LXX]; Acts 21:13; 2 Cor. 12:14). Peter viewed those who slander Christians for their lifestyles as really slandering God, who called us out of darkness into the light.
4:6 Because everyone will give account of his life to God (v. 5), Christians preach "the gospel." They do so to make it possible for people to give that account joyfully rather than sorrowfully (cf. 1 John 2:28). In Peter's day, Christians had "preached" the gospel to other people who had become Christians, who had already died. Even though these brethren had experienced judgment for their sins by dying physically, they lived on in a new spiritual sphere of life since they were believers (cf. 3:18). Physical death is sin's last effect on believers during their earthly lives.
Some people have incorrectly understood this verse as teaching that after a person dies, he or she will have a second chance to believe the gospel. That interpretation clearly contradicts the revelation of Scripture elsewhere, that there is no second chance after death (Heb. 9:27).
"Peter does not say that the gospel is being preached even to the dead but was preached.
"These are not all of the dead who shall face the Judge at the last day but those to whom the gospel was preached prior to Peter's writing (by the gospel preachers mentioned in v. 1, 12 [sic 1:12]), who at this writing were already dead [cf. 3:19-20]."
The verses in this pericope are a strong encouragement to endure suffering. Christ has assured our ultimate victory, and to turn back is to incur God's punishment.
To prepare his readers to meet the Lord soon, Peter urged them to make the best use of their time, now that they understood what he had written about suffering.
4:7 Like the other apostles, Peter believed the return of Jesus Christ was imminent (i.e., it could occur at any moment; cf. James 5:8; Rom. 13:11; Heb. 9:28; 1 John 2:18). This fact should have made a practical difference in the way his readers lived. Eschatology has ethical implications. They were to remain clear-headed ("of sound judgment") and self-controlled ("of sober spirit"), primarily so they could pray properly.
This statement ("the end of all things is at hand . . . be serious and watchful in your prayers") illustrates the importance of prayer. "Prayer" is the most noble and necessary ministry that God entrusts to His children, but it is also the most neglected ministry (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1; 1 Thess. 5:17; Heb. 4:15-16). Jesus' praying in the Garden of Gethsemane may have impressed this truth on Peter (cf. Matt. 26:40-41). Jesus prayed when the end of His life was near. The Greek word Peter used for "prayer" (lit. "prayers," proseuchas) is the general word for prayer, and indicates that Peter had all kinds of praying in mind.
". . . proper prayer is not an 'opiate' or escape, but rather a function of clear vision and a seeking of even clearer vision from God. It is only through clear communication with headquarters that a soldier can effectively stand guard."
"With the Messiah's first advent the reality of the eschatological kingdom broke on human history; but with the King's rejection, His eschatological kingdom was not established. It awaits the day of His return. But that eschatological encounter introduced a new element into the nature of history. Human history now moves under the shadow of the divinely announced eschatological kingdom."
4:8 In relation to their fellow Christians, Peter considered it most important that his readers keep their brotherly "love" at full strength (1:22; Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Thess. 5:8, 15; 1 John 4:7-11). The same expression occurs in non-biblical Greek to describe a horse at full gallop, or a runner straining for the tape at the finish line of a race.
The person with this kind of love is willing to forgive, and even "covers a multitude of [the] sins" of others committed against himself or herself, rather than taking offense (Prov. 10:12; James 5:20). We cannot compensate (pay off, make up) for our own sins by loving others. Peter was not saying that. The proper way to deal with our sins is to confess them (1 John 1:9).
"Love hides them from its own sight and not from God's sight. Hate does the opposite; it pries about in order to discover some sin or some semblance of sin in a brother and then broadcasts it, even exaggerates it, gloats over it."
4:9 Offering and showing hospitality, without complaining, is one way to demonstrate love for the brethren (cf. Matt. 25:35). In Peter's day, a host might incur persecution by giving hospitality to a known Christian.
"In certain cultures that are strongly family-oriented, the bringing of strangers into a house may be somewhat shocking. Yet Christians overcome these conventions because God's love has made them into a single great family."
4:10 God has given every Christian at least one "gift" (ability) that he or she can and should share with other believers ("employ [use] it"), and in so doing serve them. The "gift" in view is evidently one of the so-called spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12—14; Rom. 12; Eph. 4). "Manifold" means many-faceted or variegated. God bestows His grace on different people in different ways. The gifts (Gr. charisma) are aspects of God's grace (Gr. charis). No Christian can claim that he or she has nothing to offer the church.
4:11 Peter offered two basic ways of serving that represent two types of gifts as examples. Those who can share a word from God ("whoever speaks") should do so by presenting what they say as God's Word ("utterances of God"), not just as their opinion. Obviously God's words are more important, and the way we present them should reflect their significance.
Those who can "serve," by providing some other kind of help or assistance, should do so realizing that God has made their service possible. Peter grouped the gifts under two types: speech, and service.
The reason for acknowledging one's words and works as from God, is that God then gets the credit. This is only fitting, since He deserves all the "glory" (i.e., praise) and might ("dominion," power) forever (cf. Rev. 1:6). About this there can be no question. "Amen!" So be it!
"This passage is transitional. Looking backward, it serves as a kind of postscript to 2:11—4:6 (and in particular to the promise of vindication developed in 3:13—4:6). Its closing doxology forms an inclusion with 2:12: God is 'glorified' in the ministry of Christian believers to one another, just as Peter had earlier envisioned their enemies glorifying God on 'the day of visitation.' Looking ahead, the passage also anticipates on a small scale the issues to be developed more fully in 4:12—5:11."
Peter now broadened his perspective and reminded his suffering readers of their corporate responsibilities.
Peter reminded his readers of how sufferings fit into God's purposes, in order to encourage them to persevere with the proper attitude (cf. James 1).
"The section which began at iii. 13 is here concluded in a passage which recapitulates much that has been said—on persecution, on Christ's sufferings, on Christian duty, on the imminence of the End and of divine Judgment—and which reflects the intensity of the author's eschatological faith."
4:12 Some Christians feel "surprised" when other people misunderstand, dislike, insult, and treat them harshly as they seek to carry out God's will. Peter reminded his readers that this reaction against them is not a "strange thing," but normal Christian experience. Their persecutions were "fiery (burning) ordeals," in the sense that they were part of God's refining process and were uncomfortable (cf. 2:11). It was for their "testing" (Gr. pairasmos, proving), to manifest their faith, that God allowed their sufferings (cf. James 1:2-4).
Some expositors believed that the "fiery ordeal" in view is the Tribulation. I prefer the view that it refers to some more immediate trial. If the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation, as I believe Scripture teaches, Peter's believing readers would not go through the Tribulation, having been caught up to meet the Lord at the Rapture.
4:13 We can also rejoice in these sufferings, because when we experience them, we "share" in Christ's "sufferings." That is, we experience what Jesus did during His time on earth as He continued faithful to God's will. God will glorify us just as He will glorify Jesus. Therefore, we can "keep on rejoicing," now, at that prospect (cf. 1:6-7; 10-11; 2:21; Acts 5:41). The "revelation ('uncovering,' Gr. apokalypsis) of Jesus Christ's (His) glory" is most likely a reference to the Second Advent, that includes both the Rapture and the Second Coming (cf. 1:7, 13). At both of these appearings, "His glory" will become manifest, first to the church at the Rapture, and then to the world at His Second Coming.
Our present experience as we suffer for Christ's sake is similar to a pregnant woman, who feels discomfort and even pain as she anticipates her due date. When she gives birth, however, joy at the delivery of her child replaces the pain that she felt during her pregnancy. Similarly we groan now, but the hope of future joy should encourage us to hang on (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17-18).
4:14 When people "revile," insult, and reject us for being followers of Jesus Christ, they may curse us, but their curses are really blessings from God (Matt. 5:11-12).
Their curses become blessings, because the Holy Spirit, who is "the Spirit of glory," already indwells us. The "and (God)" here (Gr. kai) may be ascensive, meaning "even (God)." Peter's thought was that the indwelling Holy Spirit is already part of our glorification, the Firstfruits (Downpayment) of our inheritance. As the Israelites enjoyed the presence of God in the fiery pillar, even during their wilderness testing, so we also enjoy His presence during our wilderness experience.
"The world believes that the absence of suffering means glory, but a Christian's outlook is different. . . .
". . . suffering Christians do not have to wait for heaven in order to experience His glory. Through the Holy Spirit, they can have the glory now. This explains how martyrs could sing praises to God while bound in the midst of blazing fires. It also explains how persecuted Christians (and there are many in today's world) can go to prison and to death without complaining or resisting their captors."
4:15-16 However, we should not take comfort in suffering that we bring on ourselves for sinning, in contrast to suffering that we experience "as a Christian," because we take a stand with Jesus Christ (cf. 2:20). Peter felt ashamed when he denied the Lord in the high priest's courtyard, but he learned his lesson, stopped feeling ashamed, and urged his readers "not to feel (be) ashamed." We "glorify God" when we stand up as disciples of Christ, both visually, as others view our lives, and verbally, as we explain our commitment to them.
"Clement of Alexandria tells of a favourite disciple of St. John who became captain of a band of robbers . . . There were men in the Apostolic Church who had been kleptai [thieves], and were still in danger of falling back into evil ways, see I Cor. vi. 10; Eph. iv. 28."
4:17 In this verse and the next, Peter gave two encouragements in suffering by comparing our suffering, as believers with the suffering that unbelievers will experience. This verse focuses on the "time" of these two experiences of suffering ("judgment"). Our suffering is now, but theirs will be when they stand before God in judgment. Our "judgment," by unbelievers now, is lighter than will be their judgment by God later. Our sufferings are part of the opening scene in the last act of God's redemptive drama. More severe judgment will follow on the ungodly. It helps to see our sufferings in the context of God's end-times plan. They are not an accident, but an assurance of His sovereign control.
One writer argued that Peter was alluding to Malachi 3:2-3. This seems unlikely, since Malachi referred to a purifying judgment that would come on Israel, whereas Peter wrote of one that Christians experience now. Peter previously called the church a spiritual household (2:5).
4:18 In this verse, Peter contrasted the intensity of the two experiences of suffering, by disciples now and by unbelievers in the future. It is "with difficulty" that righteous people pass through this phase of our existence into the next phase, because this phase involves suffering for us. "Saved" (Gr. sozetai) here means "delivered," in the sense of being delivered from this life into the next. Yet it will be even more difficult ("What will become of . . .?") for godless people to pass from this phase of their lives to the next, because they will have to undergo God's wrath. Their future sufferings will be far more intense than our present sufferings.
The purpose of Peter's quoting Proverbs 11:31 (loosely) was to show that the Old Testament also taught that both the righteous and the wicked will receive from the Lord. The point in the proverb is that: since God rewards the righteous on earth, how much more can we count on His rewarding wicked sinners! If God disciplines His own children, how much more severely will He deal with those who are not His children?! Our sufferings are light compared with those the ungodly will experience in the future.
4:19 "Therefore" draws these encouragements to a conclusion, and introduces a command in view of them. In view of these reasons, we should respond to suffering by entrusting ourselves ("our souls") "to a faithful Creator," the God who created us (cf. Matt. 27:50; Luke 23:46). He will bring us through our sufferings safely (cf. Phil. 1:6). God is faithful to do this. Furthermore, we should keep on "doing what is right" (e.g., submitting to government rulers, obeying masters, submitting to husbands, loving wives, etc.), rather than doing evil (v. 15). "Souls" (Gr. psychas) again refers to our total persons (cf. 1:9, 22; 2:11, 25; 3:20).
"Peter described God as the 'faithful Creator'—an unusual designation because only here in the NT is God called ktistes [Creator] . . . The combination of 'faithful' and 'Creator' reminds the believer of God's love and power in the midst of trials so that they will not doubt his interest or ability."
Peter brought together four reasons for suffering in this section. First, God allows us to suffer to demonstrate our character (v. 12). Second, those who identify themselves with Jesus Christ will share in the sufferings of our Savior (v. 13; cf. Phil. 3:10). Third, our sufferings will be an occasion of God blessing us (v. 14). In addition, fourth, our suffering will glorify God (v. 16). Peter then redirected our perspective on suffering by reminding us of the time and intensity of our sufferings, compared with that of unbelievers (vv. 17-18). Finally, he concluded with an exhortation to trust God and do right (v. 19). Peter thus encouraged his readers by revealing God's perspective on their sufferings.
Peter concluded the body of his epistle, and this section on encouragement in suffering, with specific commands so his readers would understand how to live while suffering for Christ.
"An intimate personal note runs through this section, the author alluding to himself and his own experience and standing more directly than heretofore, and addressing his readers, especially those in the ministry, with primary regard to their pastoral relationship to one another in the Church. Earlier themes, such as the need for humility and wakefulness, and the promise of grace to stand firm in persecution and of glory at the last, are repeated."
5:1 In view of the inevitability of trials and God's judgment, Peter gave a special charge to the "elders" (overseers) of the congregations of his readers. Peter himself was an elder as well as an apostle. As a "fellow elder," he spoke from experience.
He himself had participated in sufferings for Christ's sake. "Witness" (Gr. martys; cf. Acts 3:15; 10:39) does not just mean that he observed Jesus suffering, which he did. It means he shared Jesus Christ's "sufferings," and bore testimony out of that experience (4:13). Like his readers, Peter also shared the "glory" that God will yet reveal (4:14; 5:4). This is probably not an allusion to the Transfiguration, since Peter did not partake of the glory of that occasion, but only observed it.
5:2 Peter's exhortation to his fellow elders was for them to take care of those under their charge, in the same way a shepherd cares for his sheep (cf. John 21:16; Acts 20:28; Ezek. 34:1-16). In other words, elders are responsible for the pastoral work of the local church. A pastor is usually an elder who functions as a shepherd. The verb "shepherd" (Gr. poimaino) literally means "to tend." Pastoring includes the duties of feeding, leading, guiding, guarding, and providing for the needs of those in the church—just like a shepherd does these same tasks for his sheep (cf. John 21:16).
Note that Peter limited the sphere of pastoral responsibility to "the flock . . . among you." This implies local responsibility, rather than general or ecumenical responsibility (authority over any number of churches, some of which would have been geographically distant from the elder).
Three contrasts follow, that clarify the proper motivation and manner of an elder's ministry:
First, he should serve willingly ("voluntarily"), as opposed to grudgingly (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7). God wants us to perform any service for Him willingly. Elders should not serve because they feel they must do so because of external pressure ("under compulsion"), but because they desire to serve God.
"I have counseled with many pastors who . . . feel that they are imprisoned by their calling to ministry. They would prefer to be somewhere else, they are not enjoying their ministry, or they are in a difficult situation from which they would like to escape. To them, ministry has become mere drudgery.
"It need not be so! Peter reminds us that we should serve the Lord and tend His flock willingly. . . . The Lord does not force us or coerce us to be involved in ministry. He calls us and invites us to ministry, but we have the freedom of saying 'yes' or 'no'!"
Second, an elder should serve zealously and enthusiastically ("with eagerness"), as opposed to selfishly ("for sordid gain"). He should not serve for what he can get out of his ministry now, but for the love of his Lord. The "gain" one could derive from being an elder included honor in the church, as well as possible financial gain. It seems that elders in the early church often received payment for their ministry (cf. 1 Tim. 5:17 where the "double honor" probably refers to payment; 1 Cor. 9:7-11). Otherwise there would be no such temptation.
"To enter the ministry simply because it offers a respectable and intellectually stimulating way of gaining a livelihood is to prostitute that sacred work. This warning also includes the temptation to use the work of the ministry to gain personal popularity or social influence."
5:3 Third, an elder should lead by giving an "example" of godly living that others can follow, rather than by "lording it over," i.e., driving people forward with authoritarian commands (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Thess. 3:9). He should be able to expect them to do as he does, as well as to do what he says. The English word "clergy" derives from the Greek verb kleroo, meaning "to make a possession," here translated "allotted to your charge" (NASB).
"The shepherds are not to be little popes or petty tyrants. Matt. 20:25; II Cor. 1:24.
"If I have any counsel for God's shepherds today, it is this: cultivate a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and share what He gives you with your people. That way, you will grow, and they will grow with you."
"The effective pastor . . . must be 'among' his people so that he can get to know them, their needs and problems; and he needs to be 'over' his people so he can lead them and help them solve their problems. There must be no conflict between pastoring and preaching, because they are both ministries of a faithful Shepherd. The preacher needs to be a pastor so he can apply the Word to the needs of the people. The pastor needs to be a preacher so that he can have authority when he shares in their daily needs and problems. The pastor is not a religious lecturer who weekly passes along information about the Bible. He is a shepherd who knows his people and seeks to help them through the Word."
Since one of the husband's primary roles is that of shepherd of his family, it is worthwhile to read verses 2 and 3 from this perspective. A husband should "shepherd" his family flock by caring for their needs. He should consider this a privilege ("voluntarily"), he should make his family a priority ("eagerness"), and he should be a model of integrity ("example"). Certainly he should tell the members of his family that he loves them.
It might be profitable to read Psalm 23, and if you are an elder and or a husband, substitute your name in the place of the shepherd.
5:4 Elders are actually undershepherds who serve under the "Chief Shepherd," Jesus Christ (John 21:15-17). Peter wanted the Chief Shepherd to find his fellow elders faithful when He returns at the Rapture. Then they would have to give an account of their stewardship at His judgment seat (cf. Heb. 13:17).
"It would not be clear, from this passage alone, whether St. Peter regarded the coming of the Lord as likely to occur in the life of these his readers, or not: but as interpreted by the analogy of his other expressions on the same subject, it would appear that he did . . ."
The "crown (Gr. stephanos, 'garland') of glory" that does not fade probably refers to "glory" itself as a crown, that will come to every faithful Christian when Christ returns. It is probably not a material, but a metaphorical, crown (as is the "crown of righteousness" in 2 Timothy 4:8, the "crown of life" in James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10, and the "crown of joy" in Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). The reason for this conclusion is that the biblical writers described the crowns in figurative language (glory, righteousness, etc.), not in literal language (gold, silver, etc.; cf. Heb. 2:9). Elders who are faithful now will receive glory that will not fade when Jesus Christ returns.
An Imperishable Crown
For leading a disciplined life
1 Cor. 9:25
A Crown of Rejoicing
For evangelism and discipleship
1 Thess. 2:19
A Crown of Righteousness
For loving the Lord's appearing
2 Tim. 4:8
A Crown of Life
For enduring trials
A Crown of Glory
For shepherding God's flock faithfully
1 Pet. 5:4
Leaders of the church were normally in the older age group. Peter addressed the younger group in this verse. "Elders" in this verse refers to those people in the older age group. That he did not mean just the official elders of the church seems clear from the contrast with "younger" (cf. 1 Tim. 5:1, 17).
The "younger" people in the church were and are to take a position under the authority of ("be subject to") the older people ("your elders"). The reason for this, though unexpressed, seems self-evident: the older have more experience in living (cf. Job 32:4).
All Christians, regardless of our age, should put on "humility" as a garment, (i.e., let it be what others see as we serve; cf. 3:8). The Greek word translated "clothe" is a rare one, that comes from a word referring to the apron that slaves put on over their regular clothes. This garment prepared them for service (cf. John 13:4-15). We should be ready and eager to serve one another, rather than expecting others to serve us (Mark 10:45).
Peter again quoted Proverbs (Prov. 3:34) for support. This is the theological reason for his ethical charge (cf. James 4:6). He then proceeded to expound the ideas expressed in this proverb in the following six verses.
5:6 God's almighty ("mighty") "hand" had permitted affliction to touch Peter's readers. The apostle urged them to submit to ("humble [themselves] under") God's working in their lives, as if to the skillful hand of a surgeon. He assured them that God would raise them up, and "exalt" them to a higher position, eventually better off for their suffering (cf. Luke 14:11; James 1:2-4). Peter had learned to submit to God's hand on his own life, though at times he had not been as submissive as he should have been. The Old Testament writers used God's "hand" as a symbol of discipline (Exod. 3:19; 6:1; Job 30:21; Ps. 32:4) and deliverance (Deut. 9:26; Ezek. 20:34).
5:7 This verse does not introduce a new command, but explains how to humble oneself: by entrusting oneself and one's troubles to God (Ps. 55:22; cf. Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:6). We can do this because we have confidence that God "cares" for our welfare.
5:8 Trust in God is not all that we need, however. We also need to practice self-control ("be of sober spirit"), and to keep "alert" (cf. 1:13; 4:7), because Satan is on the prowl (cf. Job 1:7; Matt. 26:41; 1 Cor. 16:13).
Peter's readers were in danger from the devil if they gave in to his temptation to doubt God's goodness, and to regard their sufferings as an indication of God's disinterest or ill will (cf. James 1:13). Satan not only seeks to deceive us as the serpent deceived Eve (2 Cor. 11:3), but he also seeks to "devour" us as a "lion."
5:9 Whereas God commands us to forsake the world and to deny the lusts of the flesh, we should "resist" the devil (cf. Eph. 6:11-13; Jas. 4:7). Satan's desire is to get the Christian to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey what God has said (cf. Gen. 3:1-5; Matt. 4:1-11). The Greek word translated "resist" means to "defend oneself against," as opposed to attacking the enemy. It is easier to resist when we remember that this duty is common to all Christians; our Enemy's assaults are not unique to each of us alone. A better translation of "accomplished by" might be "laid upon." "Suffering" is the common experience of all committed believers as long as they are in the world (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12).
The Christian's Three-Fold Enemy
of the flesh
Peter advocated three responses to Satan in this passage: First, we should respect him ("be of sober spirit," v. 8). If Peter had respected Satan more, he might not have slept in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus had warned him to watch and pray, so that he would not have entered into temptation. Second, Peter said we should recognize Satan ("be on the alert," v. 8). If Peter had been alert, he might not have denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest. Third, we should resist Satan (v. 9). If Peter had resisted Satan, he might not have felt that he had to resist Malchus' advance in Gethsemane, and cut off his ear.
5:10 We have on our side One who is able to overcome our adversary the devil. Furthermore, "the God of all grace" gives sufficient grace (2 Cor. 12:9). He has "called us to" experience "eternal glory" ultimately (1:1). Both our "calling" and our "glory" are "in Christ." God will "perfect" or make us complete (Gr. katartizo, "to mend [nets]," Matt. 4:21), "establish" us, "strengthen" us for service, and "comfirm" us—giving us peace in His will.
"What Peter has done is pile up a number of closely related terms that together by their reinforcing one another give a multiple underscoring of the good that God is intending for them and even now is producing in their suffering."
5:11 God has enough power and ability ("dominion") to help us endure whatever suffering He allows us to experience (1 Cor. 10:13). Peter concluded this statement about God's sufficiency with another benediction (cf. 4:11).
To summarize, Peter exhorted the church elders to shepherd those under their care. He exhorted younger Christians to submit to their older brethren. And he exhorted all to stand firm against Satan's attacks, armed with an attitude of submission to God and to one another.
Peter concluded this epistle with a final exhortation, and greetings from those with him and himself, to encourage his readers further.
5:12 "Silvanus" is the Roman form of the Greek name "Silas." This "Silas" may very well have been Paul's companion on his second missionary journey. Silas may have written this epistle as Peter dictated it, or in some other way assisted in its composition. Peter may have taken the pen from Silvanus, at this point in the letter's composition, and written the conclusion himself, as was common (cf. Gal. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:17). It seems more probable, however, that the words "through Silvanus . . . I have written" mean that Silas carried this epistle from Peter to its first destination. It would have been more customary for Peter to mention Silas at the beginning of the letter if he had had some role in its composition.
Peter explained his purpose for writing this epistle: he wanted to exhort the readers to "stand firm" in the faith, since suffering for the Savior is part of being a recipient of God's grace (5:9). One of Peter's gifts was exhortation. God's grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9)! The "true grace of God" may refer to the help that the readers would obtain from the Lord and, specifically, from this letter.
5:13 "She" probably refers to the church in the town where Peter was when he wrote this letter (cf. 2 John 1, 4). The Greek word for "church" (ekklesia) is feminine, though the word ekklesia does not appear in 1 Peter. Some commentators have suggested that Peter referred to his wife. But this seems unlikely to me, since none of the other epistle writers in the New Testament referred to their wives. God chose the church "together with" the believers to whom Peter sent this epistle.
"Election is . . .: (1) the sovereign act of God in grace whereby certain persons are chosen from among mankind for Himself (Jn. 15:19); and (2) the sovereign act of God whereby certain elect persons are chosen for distinctive service for Him (Lk. 6:13; Acts 9:15; 1 Cor. 1:27-28)."
"Babylon" may refer to Babylon on the Euphrates River. However, this seems more likely to be a veiled, metaphorical reference to "Rome," where Peter spent the last years of his life. The technical name for this figure of speech (i.e., a code name) is atbash. We know that John "Mark" was in Rome (Col. 4:10). But why would Peter have called Rome "Babylon"? Probably he did so because Rome was the capital of the pagan world. The Christians had come to think of Rome as a type of, or another Babylon, metaphorically, or perhaps: "Babylon II."
The Jews spoke of Rome as "Babylon" after the fall of Jerusalem, in A.D. 70, which may support the view that Peter wrote this epistle after that date. Babylon on the Euphrates was then in decline, but it was formerly the world center of godlessness. The Bible uses "Babylon" as a symbol of ungodliness, as well as the name of a real town (cf. Rev. 17—18). Similarly, the name "Hollywood" is both a literal town name, and the symbol of the industry for which the town is famous.
John "Mark" was Peter's protégé. Many scholars believe that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome, and that Peter's influence on him is apparent in what Mark included in that record of Jesus' life and ministry. There is considerable evidence for this in the second Gospel.
5:14 In Peter's culture, "a kiss" was a common way to express affection publicly (cf. Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). It still is, today, in many parts of the world.
"In the ancient world kisses were normally exchanged among family members (parents and children; brothers and sisters; servants and masters) and at times between rulers and their clients. The erotic kiss is secondary and not stressed in the literature. The familial kiss probably forms the background to the NT practice, for all fellow-Christians were considered brothers and sisters. This affectionate kissing was normally on the cheeks, forehead, or hands. We can assume such to be the practice here. . . . In calling it the 'kiss of love' Peter not only brings out the meaning of kiss ('kiss,' philema in Greek, comes from phileo, a verb indicating familial and friendly as opposed to erotic love), but also expresses the proper relationship among the members of the Christian community ('love' here is the typical Christian term for love, agape, used also in 1:22; 4:8)."
In the midst of their persecution, Peter prayed that his readers might experience God's surpassing peace (Phil. 4:6-7). "Peace" expresses the common Jewish blessing "Shalom." This epistle opens and closes with a prayer for peace (cf. 1:2).
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_____. "Let Wives Be Submissive . . .": The Origin, Form, and Apolegetic Function of the Household Duty Code (Haustafel) in I Peter. Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1974.
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_____. "Christ Preaching through Noah: 1 Peter 3:19-20 in the Light of Dominant Themes in Jewish Literature." Trinity Journal 7NS:2 (Fall 1986):3-31.
_____. "Should We Move Beyond the New Testament to a Better Ethic?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47:2 (June 2004):299-346.
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Hart, J. H. A. "The First Epistle General of Peter." In The Expositor's Greek Testament, 5 (1910):3-80. 4th ed. Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. 5 vols. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-12.
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_____. "Designation of the Readers in 1 Peter 1:1-2." Bibliotheca Sacra 137:545 (January-March 1980):64-75.
_____. "Following Christ's Example: An Exposition of 1 Peter 2:21-25." Bibliotheca Sacra 139:553 (January-March 1982):32-45.
_____. "Living in the Light of Christ's Return: An Exposition of 1 Peter 4:7-11." Bibliotheca Sacra 139:555 (July-September 1982):243-54.
_____. "The Suffering and Triumphant Christ: An Exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22." Bibliotheca Sacra 139:554 (April-June 1982):146-58.
_____. Working with God: Scriptural Studies in Intercession. New York: Carlton Press, 1987.
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_____. "Winning Unbelieving Husbands to Christ (1 Pet. 3:1b-4)." Bibliotheca Sacra 153:610 (April-June 1996):199-211.
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For further discussion, see Davids, pp. 14-23, 30-44; Michaels, pp. lxvii-lxxv; and James E. Allman, "Suffering in the Non-Pauline Epistles," in Why, O God? Suffering and Disability in the Bible and Church, pp 195-205.
See C. Norman Hillyer, "'Rock-Stone' Imagery in I Peter," Tyndale Bulletin 22 (1971):58-81; and Frederic R. Howe, "Christ, the Building Stone, in Peter's Theology," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:625 (January-March 2000):35-43.
See John W. Pryor, "First Peter and the New Covenant," Reformed Theological Review 45:1&2 (January-April & May-August 1986):1-3, 44-50, for an example of how covenant theologians, who believe the church replaces Israel in God's program, interpret this and other passages dealing with Peter's perception of the identity of his readers.
For further information on the subject of the church's distinctiveness, see Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp. 22-47; idem, Dispensationalism, pp. 23-43; or Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, pp. 205-12.
For a different view, see William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, p. 36. See Wayne Grudem, "Should We Move Beyond the New Testament to a Better Ethic?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47:2 (June 2004):299-346, for a thorough and devastating, I believe, critique of Webb's book.
E.g., Marilyn Vaughn, "When Should a Wife Not Submit?" Moody Monthly, October 1977, p. 107; James R. Slaughter, "Submission of Wives (1 Pet. 3:1a) in the Context of 1 Peter," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:609 (January-March 1996):73-74; idem, "Winning Unbelieving Husbands to Christ (1 Pet. 3:1b-4)," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:610 (April-June 1996):203; Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, p. 139; and Paul E. Steele and Charles C. Ryrie, Meant to Last, pp. 32-33.
D. L. Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive: The Domestic Code in I Peter, p. 99; idem, "'Let Wives Be Submissive . . .': The Origin, Form, and Apolegetic Function of the Household Duty Code (Haustafel) in I Peter" (Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1974), pp. 240-46.
E.g., Lenski, p. 159; John Albert Bengel, New Testament Word Studies, 2:746; B. C. Caffin, "I Peter," in The Pulpit Commentary, p. 133; A. J. Mason, "The First Epistle General of Peter," in Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, 8:420; J. W. C. Wand, The General Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, p. 100; and Robertson, 6:116.
Fanning, pp. 449-50; Raymer, pp. 851-52; Selwyn, p. 199; Paine, p. 1450; Henry, p. 1945; John S. Feinberg, "1 Peter 3:18-20, Ancient Mythology, and the Intermediate State," Westminster Theological Journal 48:2 (Fall 1986):303-36; and Wayne Grudem, "Christ Preaching through Noah: 1 Peter 3:19-20 in the Light of Dominant Themes in Jewish Literature," Trinity Journal 7NS:2 (Fall 1986):3-31.
For defense of the view that spiritual gifts are ministries rather than abilities, see Kenneth Berding, "Confusing Word and Concept in 'Spiritual Gifts': Have We Forgotten James Barr's Exhortations?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:1 (March 2000):37-51.
See E. Randolph Richards, "Silvanus Was Not Peter's Secretary: Theological Bias in Interpreting dia Silouanou . . . egrapha in 1 Peter 5:12," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:3 (September 2000):417-32.
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