Introduction to 1 Peter
See full series: studies-in-1-and-2-peter
Introduction to 1 Peter
Sermon by Thomas Thornhill Jr
Passage: 1 Peter 1:1-2
October 4, 2020 pm
STUDIES FROM PETER’S EPISTLES (1)
Tonight, we want to begin a study of the books of 1 & 2 Peter. For the past many years we have been engaged in a number of studies where we go through books of the New Testament. Previously, we concluded the book of Philippians. In this lesson, I want to begin a study of the General epistles attributed to Peter. This will be an ongoing monthly study, with possible breaks for special studies or other occasions. For now, we will devote the first Sunday night of each month to this study.
I chose these books for my next expository series because they address some very timely themes. 1 Peter is a book about suffering and submission. 2 Peter is about perseverance unto the end, even in the face of false teachers.
Let’s get started with this study tonight.
I. Background Info (1:1-2)
- Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ – there is little debate that this first letter was written by Peter the apostle of Jesus. He is referred to early on, even by external sources among the patristic writers who appealed to this letter.
Internally, Peter identifies himself as the author. He also makes mention of himself in 1 Peter 5:1 as a fellow elder (recall that we know Peter was married as he had a mother-in-law that Jesus healed – Matthew 8:14-17
Of all the original apostles, Peter is perhaps the most well-known. He was an early disciple of Jesus and very outspoken. While with Jesus, he was the one to speak up that Jesus was the Son of God in Matthew 16:16. He was the one who firmly denied that he would forsake Jesus, but he did 3 times. He is the one who after this was restored by Jesus as recorded in John 21, but a little humbler.
It is his sermon that is recorded in Acts 2 on the day the church began. He was sent to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christ (Acts 10). He later defended Gentiles in the Lord’s church refusing to demand that they follow the LOM (Acts 15:7-11). But he also struggled from time to time. We read of that in Galatians 2:11ff where Paul had to challenge him for acting hypocritically.
Many more facts about Peter could be said, but these are sufficient for the time. 2 Peter is believed to be his farewell address (Much like 2 Timothy is to Paul).
Letters from Peter ought to be very relatable because we see in Peter great flaws (denial of Jesus, hypocrisy, impetuousness, etc.) that are documented. So most of us can relate to him better than Paul or John (though I am not saying they are perfect either).
- Written to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia – these different regions in the NE quadrant above the Mediterranean Sea.
Like written to congregations that were mixed – both Jews and Gentiles. There are references within the letter to point to this.
The origin of the churches in that region is unknown. They could have been converts from Jerusalem who took the gospel there (Acts 2:9-11), or possibly converts of Paul while in Asia (Ephesus) who took the gospel east and into that region. Possibly, Paul could have visited some of those places at some point, but we are not told. We do know he wrote the letter to the Galatians, one of the regions mentioned.
The significance of this, is we have faithful saints standing fast.
- This is a letter believed to have been written in the early to mid-60s and toward the end of Peter’s life. We know the 2nd letter bears Peter’s farewell remarks. And many believe the first letter did not precede it by too much.
1 Peter 5:13 makes reference to Babylon and some believe that this is where this was written from. But is this a reference to the real Babylon, or some believe Rome (which was often compared to Babylon – Revelation 18:10, 21, 17:5, etc.)? It is because of this (as well as statements by early church writers) that some believe Peter went to Rome. There is nothing definitive.
Personally, I don’t which of these Peter is dealing with OR is this a figurative reference to being in spiritual captivity (Babylon is where Judah was carried away to). The New Testament was written during times of great hostility toward Christians and that really is a prominent theme in this letter. I cannot help but wonder if this is a general letter written with that in mind.
Arguing against this is the fact that Peter’s letter is not figurative language, but I can still see the possibility of it being a spiritual application because of its wide distribution.
II. The purpose of this letter – The primary message of this letter is one of enduring even in times of suffering. There are a few themes to consider as we go through this book.
- Suffering – the Greek word (πάσχω, paschō) for suffering is found 12 times in this letter, beginning with 1 Peter 2:19-20 – where Peter appeals to servants to be submissive even if they are suffering wrongfully. Vs. 20 notes
This is followed by a reference to Jesus suffering for us (1 Peter 2:21-24)
This same idea of suffering for the right reasons is repeated in 2 Peter 3:14, 17-18.
1 Peter 4:1 again appeals to the suffering of Jesus as motivation to endure suffering
1 Peter 4:15-16 notes that we should use suffering because of bad behaviors and decisions as cause to cry persecutions. But if you suffer as a Christian…
1 Peter 5:10 gives us a promise – after we have suffering for a little while God will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
As Christians we are going to suffer and face trials and tribulations (2 Timothy 3:12). And in trying times such as these, IF you are suffering, let me encourage you to read 1 Peter. It is a book that is short, but filled with hope and encouragement to endure.
- Submission – 1 Peter 2:13 submit to ordinances, 2:18 – servants be submissive; 3:1, 5 – Wives be submissive, 5:5 – the younger (and all) submit to elders and be submissive to one another
Peter even speaks of how Jesus has gone into heaven and all angels, authorities and powers are subject to Him.
- A living hope – in our next lesson we will examine Peter’s opening greeting which is designed to instill hope and endurance (1 Peter 1:3-9), something we need as we endure suffering.
- Holy living – we need to live lives set apart from the world. That means holiness. This letter tends toward that theme as well (and it certainly relates to dealing with suffering)
- 1 Peter 1:15-16 – as He who called you is holy, you also be holy
- 1 Peter 2:5-10 where Peter talks about our spiritual priesthood – which is clearly related to holiness.
- 1 Peter 3:15 calls for us to sanctify ourselves and be ready to defend our hope.
- Practical admonitions – the book is also filled with plenty of practical encouragements.
- 1 Peter 1:13-14 – gird up the loin of your minds and be sober.
- 1 Peter 1:15-16 –1 Peter 1:22-23 – love one another fervently
- 1 Peter 2:1-2 – Put away attitudes of hatred and deceit and desire God’s pure word so that you will grow
- 1 Peter 2:11- abstain from fleshly lusts
- 1 Peter 2:12 – be a good example so as to remove evil accusations from the ungodly.
- 1 Peter 2:13-17 – obey your government
- 1 Peter 3:8-9 – be of one mind and care for each other (you need each other)
- 1 Peter 4:9 – be hospitable without complaining
- 1 Peter 4:10-11 – use whatever gifts you have
- 1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves and cast your cares on God
- 1 Peter 5:8-9 – Be sober and vigilant watching for the devil and resist him
AND many other practical admonitions that we will address as we go through this letter.
Peter is writing to those who were Christians scattered abroad. This letter is written to them to encourage them to stay that way, even in the face of hostilities. As I read this letter, I see just how equally relevant it is for us today. We are living in ungodly and evil times. But we must endure and we cannot quit. Peter will help us to see that and give us some understanding as to HOW we should live and WHY. I commend this lesson AND letter to you.