An Introduction to First Peter

Author

First Peter claims to be written by the apostle Peter, one of Jesus earliest disciples. This has been the traditional belief of the church as well until relatively recent times. Many scholars today will deny that Peter is the author of this letter, believing that it was written by one of his followers, or by another person who attached Peter’s name to it to give it authority.

The primary reason many doubt the authorship of the epistle is because of the style of Greek that it was written in. This is not something that is obvious from reading the English translation. But the Greek used in this letter is some of the best found in the New Testament. Is it possible that an unlearned (Acts 4:13) fisherman from Galilee could have such a command of the Greek language?

But Peter is from Galilee, a very Hellenized part of the Jewish homeland. It would actually be unusual if he did not grow up speaking Greek in addition to Aramaic. The style of Greek might be surprising, but it is possible that he was just good with languages. Another possibility is that he used a scribe to write the letter for him. One who was able to smooth out the rough edges on Peter’s dictation. 1 Peter 5:12 actually lends credence to this where he identifies Silas as one who had helped him with the letter.

All in all, I see no reason to doubt that Peter wrote this letter. The church, from very early on, attributed it to him. And surely they would have recognized this as a forgery and rejected it, if indeed Peter had not written it. Authorship was important to them.

Audience

This letter is addressed to believers who are scattered throughout what is now Turkey. Peter does not directly address them as either Jews or Gentiles. However some of the things that he says to them seem to imply a primarily Gentile audience.

Peter addresses his readers as God’s elect, chosen by the foreknowledge of God (1 Pet. 1:1-2). The word ‘foreknowledge’ used here simply means a knowing beforehand. This is an aspect of God’s omniscience, he knows everything that can be know, including the future. Some hold that God can only know the future if he has previously decreed all that is in that future, making foreknowledge synonymous with foreordination. I think it best though to leave this as simply foreknowledge without placing limits on how God foreknew.

Peter also addresses his audience as strangers and aliens (1:1; 2:11). As believers, we are now a part of the kingdom of heaven. While we still dwell on the earth, and are expected to be in submission to our human governments, we are no longer of earth. We are only aliens living here until we are called home. And that status should impact the way we live, as well as how we might expect others to treat us.

Date of Writing

If this letter is indeed written by Peter, then it must have been composed prior to his death sometime in the mid 60’s. Peter’s frequent references to suffering have led some to push the date out much later, along with changing the author, so that it coincides with one of the later periods of widespread persecution of Christians. But there is really no need to do that. Acts records that persecution of believers was common from the very beginning. It is likely that wherever Christians were, that some persecution followed.

Purpose

The suffering of believers is a common topic in this letter. From the number of times Peter mentions suffering, it would appear that those he addresses were experiencing some persecution in their lives. Peter writes to them to encourage them in that suffering. And he also reminds them of the suffering of Christ on their behalf.

This letter contains instruction for living holy lives in a pagan world and under human government. Peter also gives some specific instructions to slaves, wives, husbands, elders and to younger men. Throughout, Peter writes to encourage believers in their life in Christ, and in their life together. This is a very practical letter that should be useful to believers of all ages and circumstances.

Trinity

One interesting, and important, aspect of the introduction to this letter is its reference to the persons of the Trinity. The Trinity is never mentioned explicitly in the Bible. But passages like this were instrumental in the development of this doctrine. This is one of only a handful of passages in the Bible that explicitly mention all three members of the Trinity together. Matthew 28:19, John 14:26, 2 Corinthians 13:14 also provide explicit mention of the members of the Trinity.

But Peter does more than just mention them together in one verse. He also identifies the role each of them plays in our redemption. Caution should be exercised in attempting to make these exclusive roles however. God is not divisible; the triune God is one in essence and purpose. In everything that God does, it involves all of him, not just a part.

But Peter says that believers have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father. It is the Father who is executing his plan for creation. We have been, and are being, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Spirit to being us into conformity with God’s purpose for us. And we have been sprinkled by the blood of Christ. It is his atoning death on the cross that enables our relationship with God.

All Posts In This Series

  • An Introduction to First Peter - This letter contains instruction for living holy lives in a pagan world and under human government. Peter also gives some specific instructions to slaves, wives, husbands, elders and to younger men. Throughout, Peter writes to encourage believers in their life in Christ, and in their life together. This is a very practical letter that should be useful to believers of all ages and circumstances. (December 4, 2018)
  • Because of His Great Mercy – 1 Peter 1:3-5 - All too often we envision salvation as something that occurred to us at some time in the past. But it is much more than that. What we so often identify as the moment of our salvation is but the beginning of a journey. A journey that continues until we leave this life. The final moment of our salvation journey is when we experience deliverance from this world. The trials and sufferings are left behind. And we are delivered from the wrath of God that is to come. And that final salvation comes to those who have walked by faith with… (December 10, 2018)
  • Glorious Joy, In All Kinds of Trials – 1 Peter 1:6-9 - The joy these believers was experiencing was not just because of the presence of Christ. And it was more that the expectation of their final salvation. Their joy was enhanced because they could see the work the Holy Spirit was doing in them. They were not the same as they had been prior to coming to Christ. They were being transformed, and took delight in that. (December 17, 2018)
  • Be Holy In All You Do – 1 Peter 1:13-16 - We have been given new birth into a living hope and into a heavenly inheritance. And, because of that we are called to be different than we were before that new birth. We are to fix our hope on the future God has prepared for us. And we are to turn away from satisfying our own desires. Instead, we are as obedient children to live holy lives. To be holy because God is holy. Our new birth is not just something that impacts our future. It should be our present reality. (January 18, 2019)
  • Living as an Alien, a Foreigner in this World – 1 Peter 1:17-21 - Have you ever wondered what an alien from another world might look like? Oftentimes we might visualize ET or one of the critters from MIB. But all you really have to do is look at a Christian, at least one who is truly a follower of Christ. According to Peter, we are aliens, foreigners to this place, belonging to another world, citizens of the kingdom of God. (February 1, 2019)
  • Love One Another Deeply, From the Heart – 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 - You have been born again, of imperishable seed. So don't be satisfied with a mutual affection type of love. While that is a good start, it is only a starting place. Grow into a self-giving love, a conscious choice to build others up. Rid yourself of any attitudes that would cause disharmony within the body… (February 15, 2019)
  • A Chosen People, A Royal Priesthood – 1 Peter 2:4-5; 9-10 - Is there any reason that we should not joyfully and gladly submit to his Spirit's work within us? If we truly recognized the privilege we have as God's children, we would respond with gratitude to everything he calls us to do. Instead of clinging so tightly to the know and comfortable, we would lose it all for the sake of the call (Phil. 3:7-11). (March 22, 2019)
  • A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone – 1 Peter 2:6-8 - What is your life built around? What is the cornerstone of the church you are a part of? If the answer is not Jesus, then you are heading in the wrong direction. Align your life, and your relationship with God, around Jesus as the cornerstone. If he is your cornerstone, you have no reason to be ashamed. If he is not, then you are stumbling around in the dark. (March 8, 2019)
  • Living As Foreigners and Exiles – 1 Peter 2:11-17 - As citizens of the kingdom of God, we are foreigners, temporarily residing in this world. And while we are here we should be living in a way that would reflect well on our native kingdom and King. The people of this world will not understand us, and may well accuse of of many things. Don't be surprised. But also, don't give them any valid grounds for speaking evil against us. Live to honor God, and this world will eventually see and acknowledge that we have been faithful to and glorified God. (April 5, 2019)
  • Responding To Suffering – 1 Peter 2:18-25 - We should expect to suffer for Christ if we are being faithful. In this passage, Peter tells us how to respond when suffering, following Christ's example. (April 26, 2019)
  • Instruction for Wives and Husbands – 1 Peter 3:1-7 - Peter's instructions for wives and husbands are not always popular in today's world. But to ignore them puts both our marriage and prayer life at risk. (May 10, 2019)
  • Christian Ethical Behavior: Cliff Notes Version – 1 Peter 3:8-12 - How do we live in community and with those on the outside. Peter here gives us a brief synopsis on Christian ethical behavior. Turn from evil and do good! (May 24, 2019)
  • Revere Christ as Lord, Even While Suffering – 1 Peter 3:13-18 - How do you respond to suffering for Christ? Peter tells us to rejoice and revere Christ as Lord. And to always be ready to share the reason for your hope. (June 7, 2019)
  • Imprisoned Spirits and Baptism – 1 Peter 3:19-22 - One of the most challenging passages in 1 Peter deals with these imprisoned spirits who are facing judgement. Yet that can give us hope in our suffering. (June 21, 2019)
  • Don’t Surrender to the World’s Influence – 1 Peter 4:1-6 - We live in a world that will, more likely than not, ridicule those who are of faith. But don't surrender to the influence of the world. Be true to Jesus. (July 5, 2019)
  • Life in the Church: to Love and to Serve – 1 Peter 4:7-11 - Our life within the church should stand in contrast to what we face in the world around us. We need to be willing to love and to serve, glorifying God. (July 19, 2019)
  • Being a Shepherd, a Rewarding Task – 1 Peter 5:1-4 - In this passage Peter gives some encouragement and instruction to the elders of the church. Being a shepherd is a rewarding calling, worth doing well. (August 16, 2019)
  • Humble Yourself Under the Hand of God – 1 Peter 5:5-11 - You will face challenges in this life. But humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. And he will lift you up to glory, not in your time, but in his. (August 30, 2019)

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