Understanding 1 and 2 Peter (NIV)
Peter first met Jesus through his brother Andrew (John 1:40-42). They were living at Capernaum, at the northern end of the Lake of Galilee, when Jesus called them to leave their fishing business and become his disciples. Peter was one of the inner three (Peter, James and John) who were eyewitnesses of Jesus in his “Majestic Glory” (Mark 9; 2 Peter 1:16-18). But when Jesus stood trial, Peter denied his Lord three times—a fact he never forgot with great remorse. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter before any of the other apostles to re-establish him. And Peter became the leader of the new-born church as Jesus had predicted (Mathew 16:13-20). After a lifetime of preaching and leading, Peter was crucified head downwards in Rome during the Emperor Nero’s terrible persecution which began in A.D. 64.
According to Ray C. Stedman in his Adventure Through the Bible (P 727):
In July of the year A.D. 64, a great fire broke out in the city of Rome. Soon, the entire city was engulfed in flames, thousands of public buildings burned to the ground, thousands of houses were destroyed, and most of the city’s inhabitants were left homeless. History concludes that Emperor Nero set that fire to among the ramshackle building of Rome and make room to erect marble palaces and other monuments to his name….
The people were incensed to the point of revolution, so Nero created a scapegoat to blame for the fire: a group of people “Christians”, these Christians were considered cannibals, because they talked about meeting in houses, drinking the blood and eating the body of their Master. They spoke about “agape-love”, where they greeted one another with a holy kiss and shared their innermost problems with each other. These stories became the basis for rumors of wild sex orgies, Christians were already subject to suspicion, so when Nero blamed them of the burning of Rome, the people of Rome believed him. (Stedman).
Christians were mercilessly persecuted. They were dipped in tar and burned alive as torches; they were dragged by chariots through the streets of Rome until dead; they were sealed up in leader bags and thrown into water to suffocate…. (Adapted from P727-728, Stedman).
Peter most probably wrote from Rome (see on 5:13), at the outbreak of Nero’s persecutions. (In first-century Christians referred Rome as “Babylon”, which, notorious for the idolatry, and immorality. had infected the capital of Roman Empire.
It is against the above historic background Peter wrote this epistle to the “strangers” scattered throughout Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (the five Roman provinces, which covered the greater part of modern Turkey, north of the Taurus Mountains.) Peter’s message is one of comfort, hope and encouragement to the scattered groups of Christians.
A Living Hope
- It is God’s mercy that has given Christians new birth with a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
- Salvation is an inheritance that can never be perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for the truly redeemed followers of Christ.
- Through faith Christians are protected by God’s power until the second coming of Christ. The salvation will be complete in the last time.
- Now Christians may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials as tests of their genuine faith, which may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
- Christians must be prepared to lead holy life, be self-controlled. “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 12:44a).
- Christians ought to live in reverent fear as strangers in this world which is not eternal. We have been redeemed from the old way of life with precious blood of Christ—a lamb without blemish or defect. The faith and hope of Christians are therefore in Christ. God raised Jesus from dead and glorified Him.
- Christians have been purified by obeying the truth so that we have sincere love for our brothers and sisters, born again through the living Word of God.
All men are like grass,
And all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
But the word of the Lord stands forever (Isaiah 40:6-8).
- Peter draws a parallel between new born babies who crave milk, which is the wholesome nourishment for growth, and Christians who are like new born babies, also depend on but spiritual milk (the Word of God) to grow up in their salvation. For all those who believe in Jesus Christ have been given the right to become children of God—“children born not of natural descent, not of human decision or a husband’s will. But born of God” (John 1:13). God is holy. Children of God must learn to live a holy life: “Rid of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (2:1-2).
The Living Stone
- Christians are like living stones built on the Living Stone (Jesus Christ)—rejected by men but chosen by God. We believing in Christ are being built into a spiritual home and each of us has become in this temple a priest to offer spiritual sacrifices through Jesus. (2:3-5)
- It is important for each Christian to find his or her right place in God’s plan and stay in it. (1 Corinthians 6:19) Christians are a “holy priesthood” (2:5) representing God to men and to bring men to God by godly life and intercessory prayers. Paul urges us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, pleasing to God. (Romans 12:1)
- Simply put, each Christian with reverent fear and steadfast faith in God loves others and puts forth his or her utmost to the Highest. This ought to be achieved by believers in Christ in whatever circumstances they may face in life. Our hope and joy are for eternity in heaven as promised by Jesus Christ—not in this world which will eventually come to an end.
- Christians are chosen people, a holy nation, a people belong to God, having been called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light. (2:9-10).
- Therefore, as aliens and strangers in this world, Christians ought to abstain from sinful desires, and live good lives. The way of life and good attitudinal behavior reflected by the unity and love among Christians are like books to be read by those who are not in the Christian faith. The pagans may see our good deeds and glorify God. (2:11-12)
Submission to Rulers and Masters
- Submission to rulers is God’s Words. As citizens, we owe honor to those in governance. It is God’s will that by doing good we should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (2:11-15).
- Live freely as servants of God, but do not use our freedom as a cover-up for evil.
- Show proper respect to everyone, love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, and honor the King (the Government). (2:16-17)
Peter then talks about:
- Slaves to submit to their masters with all respect though they may be harsh and inconsiderate. (2:18). This principle is equally applicable today to employees are to obey and respect their employers.
- To suffer for doing good and endure it is commendable before God. If an employer is unjust, we are not to behave unjustly in return. Christ has suffered for us, leaving us an example to follow. (2:19-23).
Wives and Husbands
What guidance is given to Christians in the Bible if the spouse does not have the same faith in Christ or a non-believer?
In 1 Corinthians 7:12-17, Paul says:
…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her and if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him, For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches (1 Corinthians 7:12-17).
Peter in his first epistle repeat more or less the same teaching: Be submissive to your husband and by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of their lives, they may be won over. (3:1-2).
The beauty of wives should not come from outward appearances, such as hair styles, wearing jewelry and fine clothes. It should be the wives’ inner selves—the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This is how the holy women whose faith in God have made themselves beautiful. (3:3-6).
In the same way, husbands must be considerate and treat their wives with respect as heirs of the precious gift of life from God. (3:7).
Then Peter addresses the entire church. He encourages the believers to live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic; love as brother [and sisters]; be compassionate and humble. (3:8).
Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (93; 10-12; Psalm 34:12-16).
Peter advises Christians to live positive, hopeful, exemplary lives. But set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts even if we should suffer for what is right in doing good. People observing our positive and compassionate behavior towards others may want to know why. (3:13-15).
Peter says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….” (3:15).
To better understand the remaining verses in Chapter 3, I have from Ray C. Stedman’s Adventure through the Bible the following excerpt:
Then comes a difficult passage about spirits in prison and baptism….But the key to 1 Peter 3 is verse 18:
Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (3:18).
Jesus suffered in order to bring us to God. He came in the flesh. He died in the flesh. He did all this that He might accomplish the great goal of God’s plan—bringing us to God.
Peter recalls the way the gospel was preached in Noah’s day, and how the Spirit of Christ, speaking through Noah, preached to the people of his day so that he might bring them to God. But they refused—so the ark becomes a symbol of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, carrying us over the floods of judgment and bring us to God. Baptism, which is also a picture relating to the ark, saves us just as the ark saved Noah. Baptism is that which now saves us—but Peter is very clear at this point that he is not talking about water baptism:
This water [the water of this Genesis flood] symbolizes baptism [the baptism of the Holy Spirit] that now saves you also—not the removal pf our dirt from the body [which is what water baptism accomplished] but the pledge of a good conscience toward God [what is accomplished by salvation]. It saves you by resurrection of Jesus Christ (3:21).
The baptism of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation and puts us into the ark of safety, our Lord Jesus. Water baptism is the visible symbol of the real baptism that saves us, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Salvation removes the stains of guilt and sin from our lives, replacing it with a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…. (P734-735).
Living for God
Christ suffered in the body, “who his own self bares our sins in his own body on the tree (2:24).” [He] “suffered for sins, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God (8:18).”
Therefore, Christians ought to arm themselves with the same mind and be prepared for painful trials. In Matthew, Jesus said to his disciples:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).
Peter asked Christians not to be surprised at the painful trial they were suffering under Nero’s persecution. (4:12).
In closing Peter deals with life in the church. The end of things is near (i.e., the second coming of Jesus Christ). God expects His church to stand firm in faith and to live lives shining to darkness of the world—be clear minded and self-controlled and able to pray.
- Love each other so deep that it covers any sin or wrong that is done to us.
- Be generous and gracious toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Exercise our Spiritual gifts so that we can show God’s grace to one another and to the world.
- Speak truthfully (i.e., according to the very Words of God) to one another.
- Serve one another with the strength God provides.
All in all Jesus will be exemplified and God will be glorified. (4:9-11).
Sufferings, because of our faith in Christ, are blessed. ”So then those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (4:19)”.
To Elders and Young Men
Peer appeals to the elders (church leaders) to live exemplified lives. (5:1-4):
- Be shepherds of God’s flock and take good care of them.
- Serve willingly as overseers of your sheep as God has called you to be—not lording over them.
- Serve eagerly but not just for money (remuneration).
- When the Chief Shepherd (Christ) appears in His second coming, those who have served as good examples to the flock will receive the crown and share the glory to be revealed.
After having appealed to the church elders, Peter also gives advice to other church members as to how to lead a proper Christian life.
- Be humble and submissive to those who are elders. (5:5).
- God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverb 6:34).
- Cast all anxiety to God believing God cares (5:7).
- Be self-controlled and alert. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (5:8).
- Flee from temptations. Stand firm in the faith. (5:9).
- The God of all grace will restore his children and make them strong, and steadfast in faith.
Peter mentions Silas as his faithful brother and Mark, his spiritual son, sending greetings from Babylon (nick-named for Rome). (5:13-14).
…to be cont‘d—2 Peter…