What can be said about 1 Peter that hasn’t been written about for decades? Truthfully, I’m honored to even give additional perspective, and pray you’re bolstered in your craft.
To quickly catch us up, let’s look at the letter: it’s a place we’re probably all been, so when reading, you’ll immediately empathize with the themes of a trial–Peter’s writing to the persecuted and discouraged church. He’s reminding them to stand firm in their faith, following the example of Christ, and trust God no matter their circumstances. It’s a tall order, considering all the early church has gone through, and easier said from the relative safety of the origination, but the spirit of Peter’s plea is clear–God is greater, and His ways will sustain you. When preaching 1 Peter, be as practical as the instruction Peter shared and never forget to clearly communicate the hope we have despite what’s happening around you.
The Bookends: Personal Holiness
the entire book serves as a prescription for holy conduct for those who trust in the Lord. But for the preacher, two passages in particular bookend how we’re to prepare ourselves before the pulpit’s even taken.
To echo Simon Peter’s greeting from the first chapter: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” What a reminder that the grace and peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, has been given to us? Peter begins in 1:3 with a blessing to God for those mercies, and prompts us to rejoice in the refinement process. A call to holiness follows–how can one preach without this? You’re called to have a “pure heart” (v. 1:22) as you conduct your life, and as the letter begins, we see one of the first themes.
A lot of instruction is given between the first bookend and the closing one–Peter doesn’t shy away from sticker subjects, and whether preaching topically, which works for 1 Peter, or even better yet, expositorily, don’t be afraid to lean into these crucial lessons we can learn. Submission to authority in chapter 2 is something everyone from children and students to senior adults needs constant attention on. Chapter 3 discusses at length the interaction of a husband a wife, and in the breakdown of the nuclear family and Christian values we’ve seen in the last generation, appropriate to teach in any season. Themes of suffering and self-control are sprinkled thorough chapters 3-4, and in the last chapter, perhaps one of the greatest Biblical exhortations to a pastor-shepherd we have.
Before a pastor steps into the pulpit to preach, scripture is clear on how our heart should be: humble, watchful, and willing. Peter closes the letter as he started it–a call to holiness. If you’re going to preach, much less preaching 1 Peter, you should be a shepherd, using your influence eagerly, passionately, and gently. We can’t compete with the world for influence, but in Christ’s Kingdom, the first shall be last, and the last first. He who is low will be lifted up on the day the chief Shepherd appears, and with it a “crown of glory” (v. 5:4).
A Text-Driven approach
From a Text-Driven preaching perspective, the substance, structure, and spirit of the text are all taken into account. There are plenty of identifiable preaching and teaching sections. You know well Peter’s personality from the Gospels. Let your knowledge of him and his interactions with Jesus drive the voice in your head as you read, and preach with the same conviction.
One thing abundantly clear about this book is something preachers and teachers should hone in on: despite what the world thinks, despite what our gut reaction may be, and despite how we actually act, there’s no excuse for compromising our response to our circumstances. You will suffer as a Christian, but “let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (from 4:19, emphasis mine).
I don’t have the space to write out every instruction you could take from this dense book. On your own study and in your specific context, the Spirit will guide your words on what you need to say. For pointers on preaching 1 Peter, first remember that we’re all in the same boat. Trials are inevitable, but Christ always gives us direction. Secondly, personal holiness is absolutely necessary. The preparation of the preacher is just as important to the preparation of the text. Lastly, Simon Peter was a passionate Christ-follower. Share his vigor and voice as you preach. This book is full of hope–and so should you! Be blessed!