1 Peter – Outline and Exposition

Tommy Lea  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 25 - Fall 1982


Theme: Teaching and Preaching for the Persecuted

  1. Salutation (1:1-2). The work of the Trinity described
  2. First teaching section (1:3-12). The method and nature of salvation
    1. A salvation based on the hope inspired by Christ’s resurrection   (1:3-5)
    2. A salvation secured through a faith deepened in trial (1:6-9)
    3. A salvation reported by the prophets who described its grace and glory (1:10-12)
  3. First preaching section (1:13-2:3). A demand for holiness
    1. A holiness demanded by God’s own character (1:13-16)
    2. A holiness demanded by the costly experience of Christ’s passion (1:17-21)
    3. A holiness expressed in genuine love responding to the gospel (1:22-25)
    4. A holiness expressed by the new life received from a gracious God (2:1-3)
  4. Second teaching section (2:4-10). A description of the people of God
    1. A living spiritual body serving God sacrificially (2:4-5)
    2. A building founded on Christ as the foundation stone (2:6-8)
    3. A chosen group reflecting the excellencies of their deliverer (2:9-10)
  5. Second preaching section (2:11-3:12). The Christian witness in the world
    1. Separation from evil and expressions of integrity (2:11-12)
    2. Submission to the governing powers (2:13-17)
    3. Subjection to masters in imitation of Christ’s example (2:18-25)
    4. Exemplary relationships between wives and husbands   (3:1-7)
    5. Compassion and forgiveness among all Christians (3:8-12)
  6. Third teaching section (3:13-4:19). Appeals and promises to the persecuted
    1. An appeal for commitment to meet suffering righteously (3:13-17)
    2. A promise derived from Christ’s exaltation (3:18-22)
    3. An appeal to live in the will of God, not in the lusts of men (4:1-6)
    4. Some promises and appeals because of Christ’s return (4:7-11)
    5. Some appeals for suffering righteously (4:12-19)
  7. Third preaching section (5:1-9). Assurance for faithful servants
    1. Divine recognition for leaders serving unselfishly (5:1-4)
    2. Divine encouragement for all Christians enduring in humility (5:5-9)
  8. Conclusion (5:10-14). Praises to God and greetings to the church



The compassion of the world has been aroused in recent years by plight of young children who are suffering from poor nutrition or lack of food. Pictures of these underfed youngsters with distended stomachs have been shown by relief agencies responsible for collecting funds to be used in the purchase of food for them. Compassionate people have responded generously to help this problem. When young children face deep hardship, the compassion of the world can be quickly aroused toward them.

Peter wrote his First Epistle to young Christians (2:2) who had come face to face with stern trials (4:12). His compassion for the spiritual plight of these babes resembled the concern which can be shown for the physical needs of children. He presented a message of encouragement intended to remind them that they were God’s special people (2:9) and that their sufferings were a temporary testing of their faith (1:6). The conclusion of all history was at hand and this end would bring destruction to their enemies and glory to them if they stood firm (5:10). Instead of being disheartened by their difficulty, they should disarm their opponents by holy living in every department of life (2:15). Christ himself had suffered death patiently, and his example should motivate them to conquer evil and endure to the end (2:19-24).

In recent years some interpreters have approached I Peter as a sermon given at a baptismal service or some other celebration of public worship. Peter does write much about the practical consequences of living out the Christian faith, and he treats many themes which could have appeared in sermons. However, the recipients of his message were not merely baptismal candidates but scattered Christians who needed sound counsel about persecution.

E. G. Selwyn[1]E. G. Selwyn, The First Epistle of St. Peter, 2nd ed. (London: MacMillan, 1947), pp.4-6. has suggested that Peter combined sections of doctrine and exhortation in order to cover several topics which could assist those facing hardship. His principle of organization is followed in the outline preceding this exposition.

Peter begins his letter with a brief salutation in 1:1, 2 and he moves quickly into an initial teaching section (1:3-12) in which he refers to Christ’s resurrection, Christian trials, and Old Testament prophets. He makes all of these references in order to explain the precious nature of the salvation of his readers. Peter follows this section with an exhortation to holiness based on the character of God (1:13-2:3) and moves into a second teaching section (2:4-10) in which he describes the church with the images of a building, a priesthood, and a chosen nation. He appeals to his readers to display a firm Christian witness in the world in a second preaching or exhortation section (2:11-3:12), and he provides his most extensive discussion of a theology of persecution in a third teaching section (3:13-4:19). In a third preaching   section (5:1-9) he assures faithful servants that God will bestow on them future rewards and present strength. His conclusion in 5:10-14 resembles similar conclusions in Paul’s writing.


I. Salutation (1:1, 2)

Peter’s name is the Greek form of the word meaning “a stone,” and it was given to Simon, son of Jonah, by the Lord (Matt. 16:18). When Peter calls himself an apostle, he indicates that he had been sent forth for the purpose of teaching and proclaiming Jesus. Such a commission from the Lord would give him the right to pen this letter to Christians.

In describing his readers Peter calls them “strangers,” and he means that they have only a temporary residence on earth while they are truly citizens of heaven. He also refers to them as “scattered” or “of the dispersion.” This word was often used of Jews who lived outside of Palestine, and it indicates that the recipients were scattered and away from their true heavenly home.[2]Alan Stibbs, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries “The First Epistle General of Peter,” (London: Tyndale, 1959), p. 72. The term “elect” or “chosen” is also used to describe the status of these readers. This was the term used by Jews in the Old Testament ( Isa. 43:20) to express their conviction that God had singled them out to be his special people. The use of this term coupled with “of the dispersion” suggests that the church has succeeded to the privileged role of the Jews.[3]J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on Epistles of Peter & Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), p. 40.

The geography shows that the readers lived in parts of Asia Minor which were north of the Taurus Mountains. The order of appearance of the provinces may refer to the sequence in which the bearer of the letter planned to visit the specific locations. The New Testament does not record that any apostle had an extended ministry in this area, and it is interesting to speculate how Peter made this contact.

All three persons of the Trinity are involved in assuring human participation in the heavenly destiny. The election already mentioned comes from the action of Father, Spirit, and Son. The election began with the foreknowledge of the Father. God’s foreknowledge is more than his knowing ahead of time, for it includes the idea of his foreordination (Acts 2:23). Whenever God foreknows people, he achieves his purpose and brings to pass what he foreknows.[4]Ernest Best, New Century Bible, “I Peter,” (London: Oliphants, 1971), p. 70. The Holy Spirit sanctifies men or sets them apart that they might undertake their heavenly calling. This sanctification becomes real in the movement of faith which leads to Christ and is continually present in the daily life of believers to develop their faith and deepen their relation to God.[5]Kelly, p/ 43. The blood of Jesus Christ is the seal of a new covenant between God and man resulting in obedience. This obedience is the result of the election by the Father and the sanctification by the Spirit.[6]Ibid. Bigg links the sprinkling of Christ’s blood with the divine gifts which the Christian receives as a fruit of the death of Jesus.[7]Charles Bigg The International Critical Commentary, “A Critical and Exegetical commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude,” 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1902), p. 92ff. For another opinion see F. W. Beare, The First Epistle of Peter (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1947), p. 51. Among these gifts are forgiveness, reconciliation, and access to God’s presence. Kelly notes that the image of “sprinkling” is a reference to the divine side of the Christian calling as seen in Jesus’ sacrificial death.[8]Kelly, p. 44.

The Trinitarian description in 1:2 is not intended to bring Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into parallel roles, but it has emerged from the Christian existence of the readers.[9]Best, p. 72. The order of Father, Spirit, and Christ does not suggest any dignity but arises naturally from the context. God is not termed “Father” as the Father of all men or even as Father of believers, but as the Father of Jesus (1:3).

The wishing of grace to the readers includes such blessings as forgiveness, love, and the mercy of God. The wishing of peace includes the experience of an individual in harmony with God, other Christians, and himself. It is much deeper than a mere subjective feeling of harmony.


II. First Teaching Section (1:3-12)
The Method and Nature of Salvation

In this section Peter describes the salvation provided by Christ with such ideas as hopeful (v. 3), permanent (v. 4), secure (v. 5), tested (vss. 6, 7), joyful (vss. 8, 9), and anticipated (vss. 10-12). He sees that the hope produced by the resurrection of Christ secures salvation by a faith which is deepened by trial. This salvation was announced by those prophets who portrayed its grace and glory.

Peter’s use of “begotten” in 1:3 and also in 1:23 may have been suggested by Jesus’ sayings in John 3:3. The word expresses the complete change in life of a pagan who has turned to Christ. The change is so great that former friends cannot understand the new life (4:4).[10]Ibid., p. 75. Peter is affirming that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the believing response of a person to the risen Lord are the instruments in regeneration. Beare suggests that “living” hope describes a firm, vivid hope in contrast with a lifeless philosophical doctrine of immortality.[11]Beare, p. 56.

In 1:4 the believing Christian receives a spiritual possession which is untouched by death (incorruptible), unstained by evil (undefiled), and unimpaired by time (unfading).[12]Ibid., pp. 57-58. Elsewhere in the New Testament this inheritance is variously interpreted as eternal life (Mark 10:17); glory with Christ (Rom. 8:17 ); immortality (1 Cor. 15:50); and salvation (Heb. 1:14). Best notes that this inheritance is preserved for those who are guarded.[13]Best, p. 76. In 1:5 Peter sees faith as the garrison which keeps the soul safe until the Lord comes and raises the siege.[14]Bigg, p. 101. The “last time” is a reference either to the age of the church’s ministry or to that part of the church age which lies nearest to the time of Christ’s return. The term “salvation” here is not a reference to the individual salvation of the believer but to the eschatological consummation of all God’s plans for the universe.[15]Best, p. 77.

In 1:6, 7 Peter reminds his readers that an assured inheritance and preservation by God’s power gives them ground for rejoicing even though they face many present trials. The term “rejoice” was used of a religious joy which showed itself in worship and praise to God. Mary used the term in Luke 1:47. The “temptations” are those of the Christian life and not of life in general.[16]Ibid. These trials are seen as brief, but inheritance is eternal. The expression “if need be” uncovers the divine necessity of the trials. The suffering is in the hands of God, not of man.[17]Ibid., p. 78. In 1:7 the term “trial” or “proof” is an external suffering which uncovers the genuine element in men’s faith. As gold is cleansed by fire, so is faith. Faith belongs to the world of the eternal and needs purification more than gold.[18]Ibid. In 1:8, 9 Peter affirmed that his readers were already receiving the goal of their salvation which is the transformation of their personality by communion with God. The suffering Christian is neither a complainer nor a stoic, but a rejoicer.[19]Ibid.

In 1:10-12 Peter says that Old Testament prophets knew what they were prophesying but that they sought to learn when and under what circumstances their words would be fulfilled. Peter may have seen Christ as active before the incarnation by   inspiring the Old Testament prophets about himself (see 1 Cor. 10:4).[20]Ibid., p. 81. The term “glories” is a reference to the resurrection, ascension, and heavenly session of Christ.[21]Kelly, p. 61. The term “searched diligently” in 1:10 suggests an intense search for a truth known to be discoverable.[22]Selwyn, p. 133.

The Old Testament prophets had declared that God’s mercy would be extended to the Gentiles ( see Rom. 9:25, 26; 10:13, 20; 15:9-12), but most Jews responded in unbelief when God performed this in the work of Christ. The descriptions in 1:12 suggest that the Old Testament and the New Testament form a unit with Christ’s passion and glorification as the fulfillment of the prophetic dream. The mention of angels in 1:12 suggests that they take an interest in what God is doing on earth for the salvation of men (see Eph. 3:10). The insight of these angels is also seen to be restricted and inferior to that of believers.


III. First Preaching Section (1:13-2:3).
A Demand for Holiness

Peter sets forth the character of God and the high cost of redemption as incentives to produce holiness in his readers. He also demands that their holiness show itself in earnest love for other believers and in a forsaking of all malicious attitudes.

In 1:13-16 the activity of “girding” was suited for men who wore long gowns which were to be pulled tight around the waist in undertaking energetic effort. The action would be equivalent today to rolling up one’s sleeves. The mind is that portion of Christian understanding which guides and directs conduct and it is here that determination for strenuous moral exercise begins.[23]Best, p. 84. The call to be sober is a call to disciplined behavior which avoids extremes of conduct. These Christians would be tempted to wild, reckless behavior amidst their persecution (see 1 Thess. 5:5-8), and they needed steadiness in the face of strange ideas.[24]Ibid., pp.84-85. The object of their hope was the second appearing of Jesus Christ, and the presence of this hope gave them stability in the face of their persecution. This hope was more than passive optimism, for it required a full mental discipline which would lay hold on unseen truths and reject worldly temptation.

In 1:14, 15 Christians are to show their holiness by obedience and separation from the desires to which they yielded when they were ignorant of God. The description of the readers as “ignorant” suggests that many of them were Gentiles, for such a term would not normally be used of Jews. The verb “fashioning” or “being conformed” appears also in Rom. 12:2, and it denotes a changing that is superficial, transient, and changeable.[25]Stibbs, p. 86. The pre-Christian desires of these readers may not have been altogether vicious, but they would have been unstable by lacking a governing principle to control them.

In 1:16 Peter quotes a common refrain from the Old Testament (see Lev. 11:44) to weld together religion and ethics. Christians are to be holy because the pattern of the God who called them is holiness. Holiness carries the idea of separation to God and is a positive term in its meaning. It does include, however, the idea of separating from sin in separating to God.[26]Best, p. 86.

In 1:17-21 Peter says that Christians have not been re­ deemed with substances subject to decay but with a substance as precious as the blood of Christ. In 1:17 Peter notes that calling God as Father is not an excuse of careless conduct but an incentive to live in fear of his judgment.[27]Ibid., p. 87. The term “redeemed” is an idea seen in the ancient world in the freeing of a slave by depositing his cost with the treasurer of an idol temple who returned it to his master.[28]Selwyn, pp. 144-45. The ”blood of Christ” denotes Christ’s life laid down in violent, sacrificial death. Christ is compared to a lamb without blemish, a reference to moral perfection, and without spot, a reference to physical perfection.[29]David H. Wheaton, The New Bible Commentary: Revised, “I Peter,” 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 1240. It is implied that God is the recipient of this ransom and that he accepted Christ’s obedient surrender of his life as an offering for disobedient mankind.[30]Kelly, p. 74. Peter is saying that his readers have been delivered from bondage to a way of life determined by tradition and convention and without reverence for the true God. In 1:20 Peter notes that the work of Christ was determined before the beginning of time but had only been made evident with the incarnation, passion, and resurrection. In 1:21 he reminds his readers that the resurrection and glorification of Christ gives them a basis for faith and hope.

Peter has motivated his readers by appealing to God’s holiness, their ability to call God Father, and their costly salvation. In 1:22-25 he adds a positive stress on brotherly love. Christians are to love one another without any pretense and with full intensity (1:22). “Fervently” has reference to the efforts of an athlete who has every muscle strained.[31]Wheaton, p. 1240. This emphasis on mutual love within the community would unite persecuted Christians. Beare correctly indicates that Chris­tians are not to enjoy a solitary holiness but a life in a divine society bound together by mutual love.[32]Beare, p. 84. In 1:23-25 Peter quotes Isa. 40:6-8 to remind his readers that there is a permanence to Christian inheritance and hope. The “word of God” is the preached message about Jesus, and this message shows that it is living by giving life and that it is abiding by remaining forever. God’s message is enduring and reliable while human existence, here called flesh, is fragile and short-lived.

In 2:1-3 Peter emphasizes a negative feature about love. Malicious attitudes and actions characteristic of their past life are to be put aside. To “put aside” malice refers to peeling off an attitude of wickedness, much as an article of clothing would be taken off. It refers to a full break with prior practices. The term “malice” may be a general summary of the next four attitudes and actions. Guile is a reference to actions which are done intentionally to deceive. The plural “hypocrisies” refers to a parade of outward conduct intended to impress others.[33]Ibid., p. 88. Envy will often find expression in evil speaking by running down an individual of whom one is jealous.

The description of the readers in 2:2 as “newborn babes” would suggest that they had been recently converted. Peter was eager that they seek nourishment for the Christian life with the same intensity with which young infants welcome the feeding time. Their food was to be the “milk of the word,” a reference to basic Christian teaching as explained by Christ himself (see Heb. 5:12; 6:1, 2). The term “sincere” reflects that the word is genuine or pure. The adjective translated “of the word” suggests that the message is spiritual, stemming from the one who is truly the Word of God. A reason for desiring this spiritual nourishment is given in 2:3, for they were to desire this nourishment since they had tasted the goodness of the Lord. The word “goodness” or “kindness” was sometimes applied to foods in the sense of delicious, but here it refers to God’s goodness for spiritual growth.[34]Kelly, p. 86.


IV. Second Teaching Section (2:4-10).
A Description of the People of God

Three images or descriptions of the church are given in this section. Peter portrayed the church as a living body which rendered sacrificial service to God as the Old Testament priests (2:4, 5). The church is also seen as a building or structure built upon Christ as the foundation (2:6-8). In 2:9-10 it is described as a selected nation of people reflecting the strengths of the one who had called them out of darkness. Peter’s arrangement allows these descriptions to blend easily into one another without a sharp break between them. In this section Peter quoted from Isa. 28:16 (2:6), Psa. 1 8:2 (2:7), and Isa. 8:14 (2:8). His description of the Messiah in terms of “stone” or “rock” is natural for one whose name means “rock” and it follows from the fact that the Jews sometimes used “stone” as a reference to the Messiah.[35]Stibbs, p. 101.

In 2:4, 5 Peter suggests that his readers became living stones by coming to God’s living stone, Jesus Christ, for the purpose of fellowship. The term “stone” here is a reference to a dressed or finished stone, not a boulder or a raw rock.[36]Best, p. 100. Christ is living in that he gives life to suffering ones. The description of him as chosen and precious shows the Father’s vindication of Christ. Even though Christ has been rejected by men as Messiah, he is still the Christ of God. In 2:5 Christians are seen first as living stones who composed a structure and also as component parts of the temple to be engaged in service. Christians are to offer moral and spiritual sacrifices to God. Such sacrifices will include a life of obedience (Rom. 12:1) and practical ministry (Heb. 13:16).

In 2:6-8 Peter states that the same stone which was the confidence of the believer brought the unbeliever down to judgment. In 2:6 Peter referred to Isa. 28:16. The original reference referred the stone to the Davidic monarchy, but Peter saw the meaning of the verse as culminated in Christ. The original meaning of “cornerstone” may have been either a great stone at the comer or a top or locking stone.[37]Ibid., p. 106. The destiny of men is determined by their attitude toward Christ. Those who esteem him as God does, a choice cornerstone, will not be shamed.

In 2:7 there is a reference to Psa. 118:22, and Peter uses this Old Testament passage to present Christ as the cornerstone on which unbelievers stumble. The crucified Christ who seemed abandoned has been promoted by God to glory. Beare feels that the term “head of the corner” is not a reference to a foundation stone but to

…a massive cornerstone which is set . . . at the upper corner of the building, to bind the walls firmly together. A huge stone suitable for this purpose would be useless to the builders in any other position, and would have to be ‘rejected’ while the walls were going up, yet its very size would make it a continual stumbling-block to all concerned with the building as long as it lay on the ground unused.[38]Beare, p. 99.

In 2:8 Peter refers to Isa. 8:14 to describe Christ as the stone on which men stumble. The “rock of offense” is more a reference to a stone lying on the ground. The statement at the end of 2:8 does not suggest that their disobedience is ordained but that the penalty of their disobedience is determined by God. The only remedy for the disobedience which Peter here described is not more instruction but the sufferings of Christ which could atone for such sin.

In 2:9, 10 Peter borrows some images from Ex. 19:5, 6 and Hosea 1:6-10 and 2:23 to express the privileges of being the people of God. Peter is not quoting the Old Testament, but he uses its description of the Old Testament people of God to say that the promises to them were being fulfilled in the church. The term “royal priesthood” refers to a priesthood belonging to and in the service of the king. Christians share with Christ in kingship or sovereignty. Christ is both king and priest, and this combination is transferred to believers. As a “holy nation” the church is a people separated to God. God has purchased them as his own people with the blood of Christ (Tit. 2:14). The people of God who have come from many races and nations are now one people in continuity with the Old Testament people of God.[39]Best, p. 108. These who have been chosen by God are to show forth his character and deeds. The “virtues” or “excellencies” of God are the manifestations of his powers such as his saving acts shown  particularly in Christ’s resurrection.[40]Kelly, p. 99. Christians should declare God’s wonderful deeds by their proclamation of his word (1:25) and by holy lives (1:16). Christians are to mediate the power and blessing of God to all mankind, and they stand forth as prime examples of what the grace of God can perform in   human   personality. The expression of movement from “darkness to light” shows the change from a heathen or pagan lifestyle to one which is conducted on the basis of God’s revelation (see also Eph. 5:8).

In 2:10 Peter states that those who were once not God’s people are now wholly within his purpose. The expression “had not obtained mercy” is in a tense which shows that the readers and all unbelievers had lived for a long time in a state of “non-mercy.” In Hosea these words refer to a redeemed Israel as being called back into service for God. Peter was saying that this description was also fulfilled in pagans who then and now find mercy and hence service for God.


V. Second Preaching Section (2:11-3:12).
The Christian Witness in the World

Peter now moves to suggest some areas in which God’s people are to give evidence of their distinctiveness. They are to separate themselves from all vestiges of their former life (2:11, 12), and they are to show obedience to the governing powers (2:13-17). Christian slaves, of whom there were many, were to imitate Christ by their uncomplaining and submissive behavior to their earthly masters (2:18-25). Christian wives and husbands are to demonstrate mutual respect for each other (3:1-7), and compassion and forgiveness are to be a hallmark among all Christians (3:8-12).

In 2:11, 12 Peter suggests three reasons why Christians should discipline their lives.[41]Stibbs, p. 107. First, they are strangers and pilgrims on earth. The word “stranger” describes those who have no rights or status where they are living. The word “pilgrims,” used also in 1:1, describes those who are temporary residents of a given location. Christians are foreign to their pagan environment, and they must not adjust to it. Viewed positively, they are ultimately citizens of heaven and should not forget their pilgrim character.

Second, Christians has a self-interest in such discipline. The flesh is a bad master and would wage war against the true self if it is allowed to do so. These “fleshly lusts” refer to the selfish, natural appetites of the unregenerate man, and they are to be put to death (Rom. 8:13). Although these readers were born anew, they faced a struggle to overcome temptation.

Third, self-discipline allows a believer to use his influence for God on others. Detractors of Christians would come to see that the good works were possible only through the gracious working of God’s Spirit so that they could acknowledge God as the source. Evil charges of immorality could best be answered by good deeds and not merely by words. The term “day of visitation” could refer either to a day of judgment or to a day of mercy. If it is seen as a day of judgment, it might refer to the day of God’s judgment when repentant heathen would glorify God for leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

In 2:13-17 Peter calls on his readers to show obedience to the governing powers. The term “ordinance of man” in   2:13 is better seen as “human institution.” Here it refers to every social structure which God has placed among men such as governments (2:13-17), social classes (2:18-25), and homes (3:1-7). God’s providence and initiative are seen in the very existence of such human institutions. To “submit” means to rank oneself under someone, and Peter’s appeal has a voluntary character to it. The phrase “for the Lord’s sake” means that Christians are to see governments as divinely ordained and therefore worthy of their obedience. It also suggests that such action would commend Christ as Lord to others by demonstrating that Christianity produces law-abiding citizens rather than rebels. Peter’s words in 2:14 have the ring of Paul’s words in Romans 13. They suggest that the state is sent by God to punish the lawbreaker, maintain law and order, and offer the law-abiding citizen his day of acquittal in court.

In 2:15 Peter pointedly states that such submission was the will of God for Christians. Such submissive behavior could squelch those stubborn detractors who would call Christians lawbreakers. The verb “put to silence” means to muzzle and is used of Jesus’ stilling the storm in Mark 4:39. It is significant that Peter shared this advice in an age when the infamous Nero likely reigned as Caesar. The word “ignorance” suggests a culpable ignorance rather than a mere lack of knowledge.[42]Best, p. 115. Those who vilified law-abiding Christians knew better than to give vent to such attitudes, for they were willfully blind.

Some Christians might interpret the “freedom” of 2: 16 as a removal of moral restraint, but Peter moves quickly to point out that freedom calls for a full use of all faculties in God’s service. The Christian must use his freedom in the voluntary bondage of love and not as a pretext of lawless behavior (see Gal. 5:13).

Peter concludes this discussion of the human institution of government by urging an attitude of honor for all men as God’s creatures and as objects of his love and care (2:17). Christians are to show love toward the church as a body or fellowship, and they are to show reverence or respect for God. The honor accorded to the king is quite different from the respect due to God alone. The respect given to God is bestowed because of his person, and the honor given to the king is given because of his position.

In 2:18-25 Peter clarifies the role of household servants in the existing social slavery of the day. Slaves are never mentioned in pre-Christian codes, but a large number of Peter’s readers would have been slaves. Peter’s failure to condemn slavery came because he had the conviction that in Christ they had entered a new relationship in which social distinctions had lost their meaning  (see Gal. 3:28).[43]Kelly, p. 115.

In 2:18 Peter uses the word for household servants. Many of these would have been well educated. He uses the same root word for “be subject” as was translated “submit” in 2:13. The term “masters” is a strong word describing absolute ownership. His use of “with all fear” describes a submission given out of respect of God and his control over them. This attitude of submission was to be given both to kind, gentle masters and also to the crooked or brutal masters. Most masters were good so as to avoid the financial loss of a maimed slave.[44]Best, p. 118. Peter’s instructions makes no direct criticism of slavery, and he gives his readers no excuses by which to help them avoid rendering obedience to evil owners.

In 2:19, 20 Peter reminds his readers that there is no special virtue in manfully taking punishment for wrongdoing. Showing patience in the face of injustice is a true sign of character. In commending this demonstration of patience Peter is saying that such action also wins the approval of God. The words of Peter represent a distinct social advance due to Christianity, for slave owners viewed slaves as property and could not conceive of such a category of treatment as would be unjust to slaves.[45]Ibid. To be “buffeted” or “harshly treated” suggests being struck with the fist.[46]Stibbs, p. 114. Peter is not commending any stoical endurance, for the word translated “take it patiently” does not suggest mere gritty determination but positive staying power (see James 1:2-4). It is good to realize that behavior in conformity with the commands of the master would normally coincide with conformity to the will of God. However, the slave might disobey either carelessly or willfully and suffer for his faults. He might also find that his owner was capricious and vindictive and prone to punish him even though he did his job.

To inculcate this idea of patient endurance in the middle of suffering, Peter presents the moving example of Christ (2:21-25). The passion of Christ strikingly portrays the truth that the innocent do suffer. In these verses Peter clothes his description of Christ’s passion with many phrases borrowed from Isaiah 53. His presentation also indicates that Peter had come to understand the truths which he had initially rejected (Matt. 16:22, 23).

Peter’s words in 2:21 suggest that submissive acceptance was good because the Lord did it, and he was to be imitated. The term “example” refers to a model of handwriting to be copied by the schoolboy.[47]Beare, p. 122. The term “steps” is used to refer to the tracks of an animal.

The testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus in 2:22 has added value because it came from the lips of one who knew him intimately enough to detect any shortcoming. The term “guile” or “deceit” is the same word appearing in 2:1. The description in 2:23 of Jesus’ unprotesting submission to evil treatment suggests that Jesus had confidence in the ultimate vindication of God. Jesus acknowledged God’s sovereignty and righteous judgment, and he committed himself and his cause into God’s hands. He showed his sinlessness in his passion by practicing the principle of non-retaliation (see Matt. 5:38-44). Slaves driven to despair are here reminded that God judges justly and fairly.

The exemplary nature of Jesus’ actions are mentioned in 2:22, 23, and the redemptive meaning of Jesus’ death is emphasized in 2:24, 25. In 2:24 Peter emphasizes that Jesus endured our penalty for sin. Christ’s death for our sins has made us as those who have no more connection with our old sinful patterns. To bear the sins was to take the blame or to accept the penalty of them. In 2:25 Peter notes that the life of a Christian is now directed in devotion toward the one who has bestowed his care in unceasing provision and supervision. The term “stripe” or “wound” is used of the swelling left by a whip or by a fist.[48]Kelly, p. 124. As a result of Christ’s sufferings the sinners who truly deserve punishment are healed. Peter describes Christ as “bishop” in order to show his watchful supervision of individual lives. The term “shepherd” pictures Christ as loving, caring for, and spiritually feeding believers.

The· new life which Christ gives to men and women has also a domestic impact (3:1-7). In the following verses Peter gives more consideration to the problems of women because a woman was more vulnerable in her position. Her conversion would produce greater family strain than the conversion of the husband. Much pagan thought saw her as little different from a slave.[49]Best, p. 124.

In 3:1, 2 Peter portrays the role of the woman in living with a husband who shows strong opposition to the gospel. She is to submit to him (same verb root as in 2:13, 18) by giving to him a final responsibility for decision concerning major goals and aims of the household. Her response is not to be an abject, cringing submission, and there is no suggestion of inferiority on her part. The chief purpose in calling for submission here is to win the mate, an unsaved husband, to the Christian faith. Such submission and a consequent rendering of honor and respect become the most effective means to reach intimate relatives and social superiors. The description of the husband as one who did not obey the word means that he is not a believer. A submissive attitude by the wife toward the husband could win the husband when speaking a word would not avail. The “chaste” behavior of the wife is not limited merely to sexual purity, but it describes her actions as pure, simple, and sincere.[50]Kelly, p. 128. The reverence of the wife is directed toward the Lord himself.

In 3:3, 4 Peter indicates that the Christian wife should show a distinctive interest in conduct rather than in clothes. By this time some congregations would have well-to-do women in their membership, and these instructions were needed. She is not to take pride in a gaudy outward display but in the graces of the soul. The terms “gentle” or “meek” and “quiet” present an inner attitude which is calm and able to endure graciously the impositions of a husband who may be overbearing. The word “spirit” here is a reference to a human attitude. A gentle, tranquil spirit is very precious to God.

Sara, the wife of Abraham, is presented in 3:5, 6 as an example of a woman who adorned herself with habits of godliness. In 3:5 the “holy” women are those Old Testament women who belonged to God’s holy people and who preferred interior to exterior adornments. The incident concerning Sara appears in Gen. 18:12 and shows her in a submissive deference to Abraham by her use of the term “lord” for him. The rabbis saw the text as demonstrating Sara’s obedience to Abraham.[51]Ibid., p. 131. In status those women who become Christians are the children of the obedient Sara. The “amazement” or “fear” of 3:6 is that inspired in the wife by a husband displeased with the new faith of his wife. Even though the wife is to be dutiful to her husband, she is expected to stand up to testing before a difficult husband with courage and calm.[52]Ibid., p. 132.

A command for the husband is given in 3:7. Here there is no hint that the wife is a non-Christian as was true for the husband in 3:1. The term “likewise” suggests that the husband is to show a deference to the wife just as the wife has been told to behave. This is not to be defined as subordination, but it does call for a proper respect to the wife.[53]Ibid. To live “according to knowledge” or “in an understanding way” calls for the proper exercise of Christian insight along with tact and sensitivity to God’s will. The husband is told to recognize the wife’s more limited physical powers and to see her spiritually as a full heir of the grace of God. Men and women are seen as joint heirs before God, and there is no distinction between them in the sphere of salvation (see Gal. 3:28). To pay honor to the wife calls for courtesy particularly in the realm of sexual relations. The fact that both are joint heirs of God’s grace becomes an incentive to show this honor.

A summary and climax for the previous exhortations is given by Peter in 3:8-12. Christians are to be like-minded, sharing together in feelings of sorrow and joy. They are also to have a mutual brotherly love and to be tenderhearted. The translation “courteous” could better be rendered as humble in spirit. An humble mind was a new quality of life introduced into the Hellenistic world by Christians. In earlier times this attitude was seen as base or mean, but here it becomes an example of a virtue which Christianity produced.[54]Best, p. 129. Peter provides advice in 3:9 for facing the evil and the malicious. His call is to put aside vindictiveness and to express positive good will in word and deed. Sorely pressed Christians are urged to bless their tormentors, and the ground for this blessing is the mercy received by God. To bless another is to invoke the graciousness of God on a person. The attitude of the believer toward others is not to be determined by the response from others but by God’s merciful attitude and the quality of life to which he was called.

Peter quotes Psa. 34:12-16 in 3:10-12 to give a reason for his command to vss. 8, 9. The psalm describes a person who lives a life which is worthwhile. The man wanting to live this type of life must surrender those words which are malicious or calculated to harm and those which are deceitful or calculated to deceive. In Peter’s interpretation the terms “life” and “good days” are taken to refer to the final salvation of believers.[55]Ibid., p. 131. God comforts the righteous by hearing their prayers. The person of God stands against those who do evil. In this context the “evildoers” would refer to those Christians who demonstrate an intemperate reaction to persecution.[56]Kelly, p. 138.


VI. Third Teaching Section (3:13-4:19)
Appeals and Promises to the Persecuted

Peter now moves to deal directly with the difficult suffering which many of his readers were experiencing. He is anxious that they respond in a righteous manner to those who had caused their suffering (3:13-17), and he presents the example of Christ’s ultimate vindication even though he suffered (3:18-22). The full commitment to the will of God as seen in Christ provides a basis for an appeal to live in the will of God (4:1-6). A knowledge of the return of Christ provides an incentive for devoted, watchful action (4:7-11), and a knowledge of the future glory for believers provides a basis for joy and commitment to do God’s will (4:12-19).

In 3:13 Peter appears to say that for those who live after a godly pattern the likelihood of suffering is small. It is frequently true that no one will harm the righteous, but occasionally evil people take glee in making life wretched for the upright. Peter is more probably suggesting that nothing can actually harm the one who follows the good. He cannot be made to hate his persecutors, nor will he lose his inheritance. The term “follower” actually means “zealot.” The   Christian is not to be a zealot for revolutionary activity but for the good.

Peter provides in 3:14 the negative suggestion that his readers should not fear that which their persecutors fear, and they should not be thwarted by the fear which they instill. The term “happy” or ‘blessed” reminds one of Jesus’ promises to the persecuted in Matt. 5:10-12.

In 3:15 Peter takes language referring to Jehovah in Isa. 8:13 and applies it directly to Jesus Christ. To sanctify Christ the Lord is a reference to reverencing or respecting him as Lord.[57]Best, p. 133. The Christian is to display this attitude in the heart where he would normally fear his persecutors. The “answer” or “defense” called for here is a reference to a private accusation rather than to a governmental or political trial. The defense is to be reasoned, and its explanation calls for the Christian to state the nature of his faith. The gentleness called for reflects an attitude by the Christian to his persecutors, and the “fear” or “reverence” shows his attitude toward God. When Peter failed to acknowledge that he was a disciple of Christ, he feared man more than he feared God. He also felt that he loved the Lord more than was true.[58]Bigg, p. 159.

In 3:16, 17 Peter reminds his readers that good conduct by a believer could put his detractors to shame. The conscience was a right attitude toward God from which a right attitude toward man emerged. Detractors were spitefully abusing the behavior of the Christians, and Peter wants his readers to silence these accusations by good conduct. The time of “shaming” these detractors may well be at the last judgment. Malefactors should expect suffering as the   consequence of their wrongdoing. When the righteous suffer, there must be some reason and purpose in the plan of God. The suffering Christian must seek to determine what profit or understanding   God intended for him.

Peter continues his application of truths for his suffering and persecuted readers in 3:18-22. Throughout this section his thought is that unjustly persecuted Christians can see themselves as blessed and secure because they participate in Christ’s victory over evil powers. Few passages of Scripture have proved more puzzling than this section, and the approaches to interpretation are quite varied.

In 3:18 the objective accomplishments of Christ in his resurrection and ascension are discussed. Peter presents the death of Christ as vicarious because Christ died as the just for the unjust. His suffering was mediatorial in that he brought man to God. There was an element of finality in Christ’s sufferings in that he has “once” suffered. The result of the death of this righteous one was to bring believers to God. The death of Christ occurred in the realm of the flesh, the earthly. The resurrection or quickening took place in the realm of the Spirit, the divine existence. Christ was made alive by the Holy Spirit, but the use of “Spirit” in 3:18 does not show the means by which Christ was raised from the dead but the sphere in which he was raised. He was made alive and continues to be alive in the sphere of the Holy Spirit.[59]Best, p. 139.

In 3:19, 20 Peter refers to the time after Christ’s death when his spirit was separated from his body. His argument is difficult to interpret, but he seems to be indicating that the work of Christ was vindicated by a personal announcement to some who had rejected the offer of God’s mercy.[60]The most complete discussion of this passage is in Selwyn, pp. 197-203, 314-362. The phrase “by which” or “in whom,” which begins 3:19, refers to the state in which Christ did his preaching. Jesus preached while he was in a state of being alive in the Spirit.[61]Best, p. 140.

When did this preaching occur? Peter’s statement in 3:19 seems to suggest that it took place in the interval of time between Christ’s death and resurrection.

Who were these “spirits in prison”? Some have seen them as human beings or as a mixture of human and angelic beings. However, the word “spirits” is never used alone and without qualification anywhere in the Bible to describe departed human spirits.[62]Stibbs, p. 143. These “spirits” may be seen as supernatural beings or wicked angels who, in accord with Gen. 6:1-4, lusted after the daughters of men and father giant children by them. In later Jewish literature the misbehavior of these evil angels is discussed at length. Their sin is called disobedience, and their place of punishment is called a prison.[63]Kelly, p. 154. Allusion to this Old Testament incident is also made in II Pet. 2:4, 5 and in Jude 6.

Where did this event take place? This passage has given rise to the emphasis by some that Christ descended into hell during the time that his body was in the tomb. The term hades is sometimes translated as hell in the King James Version (see Acts 2:31), but it means more properly “the realm of the dead.” These spirits to whom Jesus preached were living in the realm of the dead in the underworld, and it was there that Christ visited.

What did Jesus preach? Some see this as Jesus’ offering a time of repentance to deluded sinners who had not had a fair chance of repentance initially.[64]Bigg, pp. 162-63. The general tenor of Scripture does not sanction the idea of offering an opportunity for repentance to those already dead physically (see Heb. 9:27). It is a wiser interpretation to see Christ explaining to these evil angels that their doom had been sealed by his action. Christ made a triumphant announcement that the power of these disobedient creatures had been broken.[65]Kelly, p. 156. The readers of Peter’s writing would immediately apply these ideas to their persecutors. Just as the wicked spirits had refused obedience and faced doom, even so would their stubborn, rebellious persecutors reproduce the rebellious actions of these demons. They would thus fully share in their destruction.

In 3:20 Peter pinpoints some of these disobedient spirits as those who were living in the days of Noah (see Gen. 6:1-6). God showed his longsuffering in these days by giving sinners time to repent. Just as God had been patient to no avail with wicked ones in Noah’s time, he had similarly been patient with the opponents of the readers, also without any response. Just as Noah and his family of eight persons were delivered from the flood, even so will Christians be delivered from the coming judgment. The term “by water” has both a local and an instrumental sense.[66]Wheaton, p. 1245. In a local sense the ark brought them safely through the water which was a method of bringing judgment to others. In an instrumental sense the ark on the water was a means of bringing eight souls to physical safety.

Peter takes advantage of this illustration in 3:21 in order to draw another analogy. This salvation of the ark coming through water becomes a typical illustration of which baptism was an antitype. A type was an original incident, person, or institution of which an antitype was a copy.[67]Bigg, p. 164. The writers of the New Testament used typology because they saw that the same God was at work behind the events of both Testaments. Just as the flood speaks of a judgment from which those in the ark were saved, so the waters of Christian baptism speaks of a death which Christ suffered for sinners. It also tells the response of a believer to that death (see Rom. 6:1-6). Through baptism believers enter into the new life and safety.

To prevent readers then and now from thinking that he attributed some magical power to baptism, Peter quickly states that the experience of salvation is only realized among those who brought faith and repentance to baptism. The term “answer” or “appeal” probably refers to the questions and answers used customarily in the act of baptism.[68]Stibbs, p. 144. Those answers become the pledge of an individual to maintain a right moral attitude before God. Baptism does not save merely by removing the outward filth from the body, but it saves because it was an evidence of inner faith and repentance by the believer.

In 3:22 Peter concluded his description of the vindication of Christ by picturing Christ’s present condition as enthroned in majesty before God in a position of privilege and rank. The readers of this epistle would have considered that evil angels and powers lay behind their persecution. The victory of Christ over these evil powers assure his followers that nothing can harm them if they stand firm for the right.[69]Best, p. 150. Believers then and now are not at the mercy of demonic hordes but are under the control of the victorious, ascended Christ.

In 4:1-6 Peter issues a further call to holy living. His opening word in 4:1, “forasmuch” or “therefore,” looks back to 3:18 to remind the readers that Christ suffered willingly for men. Those for whom he died are to arm themselves with a commitment to Christ which can bear this type of suffering. The term “arm yourselves” is a military metaphor urging Christians to prepare themselves for a coming persecution. The suffering of Christ was a physical suffering for sin. The suffering which the Christian is to undertake is a co-crucifixion with Christ or a dying to self. The decision of a committed Christian as seen in the act of baptism leads him to experience a unity and a direction impossible for sinners who are distracted from side to side in life. In the act of commitment implied in baptism the Christian has struggled with sin, experienced freedom from it, and ceased from it.

The reason why Christians should arm themselves is mentioned in 4:2. It is that they might live pure lives free to do the will of God instead of being bound to the lusts of men. The phrase “rest of the time” is a reminder that the time remaining before the end seen in the return of Christ is very brief.[70]Kelly, p. 169.

The pre-conversion period of the life of Peter’s readers involved licentious indulgence (4:3), but Peter regards that section of life as a closed chapter. “Sensuality” and “lusts” describe sexual sins. “Drunkenness, carousals, and drinking parties” describe sins of intemperance. “Idolatries” speak of the wrong type of religious practice.[71]Best, p. 153. These sins would suggest that the readers came from a pagan background. Christians are not to do in their present period of life the things characteristic of the former period.

In 4:4 the former companions in evil of Peter’s Christian readers now reviled the Christians for their well-doing. Christians who refused to participate in contemporary evil were often slandered by their neighbors and accused of practicing secretly immorality and even cannibalism. It is not possible to determine the exact nature of the accusations here.

These same accusers must eventually answer to God for the words and deeds of this life (4:5). God is here seen as the Judge of the physically alive and the physically dead.

Peter’s statement in 4:6 provides a reason for the utterance in 4:5 that Christ will judge all men. The dead here are those who have died physically. Peter’s word is that the gospel had been preached to and received by some who had since died physically. They have suffered the judgment which comes on all men, physical death (see Rom. 5:12). Since, however, they have received the gospel, they can live spiritually so that after physical death they can enter into life eternal. Some have seen this verse as speaking of the offering of the gospel to some who were in a state of physical death when they heard the gospel. Again, the consistent teaching of the New Testament seems to be that men are held accountable for their response to the truth of God in this life without being offered an additional chance after physical death (see Romans 1:18-25).

In the light of Christ’s return Peter makes some practical demands of discipleship in 4:7-11. The coming consummation of Christ’s return becomes an incentive for disciplined, watchful behavior. Peter’s reference here may have been based on his sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane and also on his subsequent compromise (see Mark 14:37-40, 66-72). Although the end is near, Christians are not to abandon the ordinary duties of life but are to maintain discipline.

In 4:8 Peter states that love covers a multitude of sins in that it is ready to forgive again and again. In this sense love offers forgiveness to the one who offends or sins. Peter may also be emphasizing that love for others is an evidence that one is open to repentance and can thus receive mercy from God.

In a time when traveling Christians had few roadside locations for lodging, hospitality among Christians was a necessity (4:9). Such hospitality was costly both in time and money, it was to be given without complaining.

In 4:10, 11 Peter mentions that Christians are to use their gifts for the benefit of the Christian community. Gifts related to speaking and serving are mentioned in 4:11. The person who speaks is to speak in the recognition that he is a personal representative of God. The one who performs a ministry of kindness is to do it without any conceit in personal powers or abilities so that God may be glorified. God is to be praised in that the service of human beings is seen as the overflowing of God’s goodness and kindness.[72]Kelly, p. 181. The presence of a doxology in 4:11 need not indicate an intended conclusion of the book. Doxologies frequently appear in Scripture as an expression of   the author’s awe and   devotion   after some statement or outburst concerning the majesty of God or Christ.[73]Ibid., p. 182.

Peter pens a concluding section on Christian suffering in 4:12-19. Some see the intensity of Peter’s description here as pointing to a time when the state had come to regard the profession of Christianity as a crime.[74]Beare, p. 166. Jesus had already indicated in Matt. 10:22 that Christians should expect an intense suffering for his name, and the suffering mentioned in this section need not be seen as anything more than verbal abuse and accusations heaped on Christians by godless individuals.

In 4:12 the term “trial by fire” describes a process used in the testing of metals,[75]Kelly, p. 184. and Christians are urged not to be astonished by its strangeness or unexpectedness. The Christians need not fear that they are at the mercy of fierce demonic forces, but the persecution is still that of which they had been warned by the Lord and his apostles.

Instead of being surprised, Christians should rejoice (4:13). The seemingly distressing experiences of these Christians were in reality a sharing of the same sufferings to which Christ had been subjected. They are encouraged to be glad because of their sharing in the glory of the Lord.

If Christians are reproached for the name of Christ (4:14), they are not to indulge in either fear or self-pity but are to count themselves as blessed of God. To be reproached for the name of Christ means that they are persecuted on account of their loyalty to Christ. Peter promises the Spirit of Christ to Christians in persecution (see John 14:26). Through persecution the glory of God breaks in upon the church.

In 4:15, 16 Christians are urged not to bring disgrace on themselves by evildoing or by indiscreet action. It is a disgrace to suffer as a murderer, thief, or a busybody, but it is a privilege to suffer as a Christian. A busybody is a supervisor of matters which are not his own business. It could have been true that Christians filled with new zeal were   meddling   in the lives of non-Christians. The “suffering as a Christian” indicates suffering as supporters of Christ, and for this privilege Christians   are urged   to thank God.

In 4:17, 18 Peter suggests that the ordeal of believers is terrible, but that the suffering of unbelievers defies the imagination. God’s judgment begins with the suffering or chastisement of his disciples (see Heb. 12:5-13). If God’s judgment starts with believers, it eventually extends to unbelievers who will be punished with eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord (see II Thess. 1:8, 9). In 4:18 Peter argues from a major point to a minor deduction from it. “If,” says Peter, “God’s elect pass through difficulty, the fate of unbelievers is even more precarious.” The term “scarcely” or “with difficulty” does not question the salvation of Christians, but it emphasizes the greatness of God’s effort in saving them.

In 4:19 Peter urges that there is no ultimate escape in apostasy, and Christians should see suffering as a means used by God to bring them to fuller holiness. Christians are to entrust their inward life to him for safekeeping. The Christian faced with persecution must not hide his goodness or sink into a position of merely avoiding evil. He must do positive good and continue to love his neighbor. The mention of God as faithful suggests that he is willing to guard his own, and the description of him as Creator signifies his ability to do just that.[76]Best, p. 166.


VII. Third Preaching Section (5:1-9).
Assurances for Faithful Servants

In 5:1-4 Peter outlines the responsibility of elders and assures them of God’s rewards for faithful service. Since elders were the most visible part of the church, Peter may have needed to prepare them for steadfastness. In other contexts these elders are called bishops (Tit. 1:5, 7), and ”bishop” suggests the place of primary leadership which they had in the life of the church. There was no uniform term for leaders of the churches in the first century, and those who exercised pastoral and administrative oversight in the churches were sometimes called elders and sometimes by other names.[77]Ibid., p. 167. In order to drive home his points about pastoral insight, Peter mentions that he is a fellow-elder. As an apostle Peter had been an observer of the sufferings of Christ on earth and also had seen some measure of the glory which Jesus was to receive (see Mark 9:2-10).

In 5:2 the elders are to undertake their tasks for the right reasons, not because they must, but because they freely choose to do it. They are to function with the right motive, not that of material gain, but with the sheer delight which comes from enthusiasm. They must also perform in the right manner, not be domineering but by setting an example.[78]Stibbs, p. 165. Some of the leaders to whom Peter wrote may have needed this encouragement because of the duties and burdens of leadership, particularly the danger to leaders in times of persecution.

At the return of Christ those who perform well are to be given an unfading spiritual reward called a crown (5:4). The crown refers to a wreath given to a victor in athletic contests. The crown itself is a participation in the glory to be revealed at the coming of Christ (5:1). The adjective “unfading” comes from a word meaning “made of amaranths” a mythical flower which was supposed to be unfading.

In 5:5-9 Peter encourages Christians to practice humility, and endurance. The younger Christians who might be tempted to self-assertion are urged to be submissive (see 2:13, 18; 3:1). Humility speaks of an attitude which consists of lowliness of mind. Peter here sees humility as a garment to be tied on as an apron. His use of this analogy here may well reflect John 13 where Christ, about to wash the feet of his disciples, tied a towel about his waist as he performed this humble duty. Peter shows the principle that God resisted the proud and gave grace to the humble by a quotation from Prov. 3:34.

The humility of 5:5 is an attitude primarily to be shown to people. In 5:6 this same attitude is to be shown toward circumstances. Since God is sovereign in all activities, Christians are particularly to submit to the hand controlling them. The term “hand of God” often appears in Scripture in reference to the discipline of God (see Psa. 32:4). The “proper time” when God will exalt his people is the time when all the suffering and tribulation are finished and Jesus Christ has appeared in glory. The promise that God will exalt them applies primarily to the time of the end of all things, and not primarily to the times of this life.

The care resulting from the circumstances of persecution (5:7) must not be permitted to distract Christians and prevent their complete devotion. “Care” comes from a root meaning to divide, and it pictures a believer beset with fear and fright which hinders his service. The person who accepts what God ordains will leave the resolution of these anxieties to God. Only in Christianity can one find a God who has an active concern for mankind. God is more than merely good; he is also involved in man’s afflictions.

Christians must also avoid carelessness because their adversary Satan can overpower them (5:8, 9). The advice previously given in 5:7 is not to lead to any sense of fatalism. Satan is here presented as perhaps the one responsible for the afflictions facing God’s people.[79]Best, p. 174. Even though Peter has earlier seen these afflictions as in the will of God (3:17; 4:19; 5:6), he still sees Satan as involved in them. In Judaism enemies or persecutors were seen as lions, and the entry of this image into Christianity may have come from its appearance in Psa. 22:13. Christians are to resist Satan firmly (5:9). This command does not call for opposing their persecutors, but it demands a steadfastness under persecution so that they might not commit apostasy. They are to resist strong in the faith that their trust in God means ultimate protection for them. The final clause of 5:9 suggests that the assurance that others are enduring persecution will provide a measure of consolation (see Phil. 1:30).


VIII. Conclusion (5:10-14).
Praises to God and Greetings from the Church

The verbs of 5:10 express a promise that God will establish Christians firmly in their own personal faith and empower them for active service. The calling of Christians is similar to that of Christ in that both involve some suffering. These words assure the readers that since they have been chosen by God, they will not be abandoned by him to the whim of their persecutors.[Ibid., p. 175.[/ref] They will be preserved for eternal life. The persecution which they face will not last long, for it is but for a while. The description of God as the God of all grace suggests that his gifts and provisions are adequate for every occasion. The church which had been so persecuted will finally be perfected, established in all glory due to it, and the ground which had been shaken by persecution will once again be steadied beneath the feet of its members.[80]Ibid, p. 176.

The final greetings of 5:12-14 may have found Peter taking the pen himself to write a greeting. Silvanus was likely the scribe used by Peter for writing, and he may have been the carrier of this letter. He is the same as Silas in Acts.

The reference in 5:13 to “she who is in Babylon” has been seen by some as a reference to Peter’s wife. However, this would be a strange method for Peter to use in introducing his wife, and it seems better to refer it to the church in Babylon. The name “Babylon” appears in Revelation 17, 18 as a reference to Rome. There was also a Babylon in Egypt, as well as in Mesopotamia, but there is no particular reason to see either of these as the place of writing. Here the term Babylon is likely a symbolic reference to Rome. The mention of “Mark” is a reference to John Mark who, according to church tradition, was the interpreter of Peter in the authorship of the second gospel.

The kiss of love in 5:14 was an outward sign of unity and love. It is referred to in Luke 7:45 and 22:48 in the life of Jesus and also in Rom. 16:16 and 1 Cor. 16:20. Paul’s letters often conclude with a benediction wishing grace for the readers. Peter may have used peace here because he used grace in 5:12.


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