The book of 1 Peter was a general letter written by the apostle Peter to a wide group of early Christian communities comprising a vast network of small groups scattered throughout the Mediterranean world. Like most letters, it begins with a greeting (1:1-2), then moves to a blessing (1:3-9), followed by a statement (1:10-12), then the body of the letter (1:13).
The recipients of the letter seem to be Gentile converts from paganism. They were undergoing some form of suffering. Various “trials” were testing their faith (1:6). They were being “spoken against” (2:12), they had to “endure pain while suffering unjustly” (2:19), and they may have been abused and reviled (3:16). They could have been experiencing organised state persecution or social ostracism (more of a verbal attack than a physical one). Either way, they were experiencing hostility. This would have included a sense of conflict with the larger cultural and social ethos in a pluralistic context. Difference often results in confrontation.
Societal scorn threatens meaning and identity. Therefore, social alienation should not be viewed as a trivial form of suffering. In the face of outside hostility and contempt, intentional communities often respond by portraying the outsiders as evil. It is remarkable, therefore, that 1 Peter advocates such an open attitude toward the larger society, which, according to the writer, only needs to be shown that the Christian way is harmless. Peter does not attack the outsiders.
Peter encouraged them to bless those who were persecuting them (cf Rom.12:14, 17) and he let them know that they should not be surprised at their “fiery ordeal” (4:12). This letter was written out of the love of a pastor’s heart to help people who were going through it and on whom worse things were still to come. His main message was “steady encouragement to endurance in conduct and innocence in character (Moffatt).”
Let's look at a few of his opening thoughts ...
This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father a knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. NLT
Christians are “exiles" or "foreigners" in the world. We are temporarily abiding on earth but our true home is in heaven. We have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father, through the “sanctifying” work of the Spirit (drawing us from sin to holiness) and for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood. All three persons of the Trinity are involved in our redemption. Peter prays for grace and peace in abundance on these believers he is writing to.
Praise for a Living Hope (vs.3-12)
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.
God has given us a new birth into a “living hope” through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have an eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us. Through faith we are shielded by God’s power until the coming salvation is revealed in the last time (vs.3-5). “Hope” is a key topic in this letter (see 1:13,21; 3:5,15), especially in the midst of difficult times. For the Christian, hope is not wishful thinking but rather a firm conviction, much like faith that is directed toward the future. Salvation is past, present and future. For the moment you may be suffering grief through all kinds of trials (vs.6-7). These have come that your faith may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Your faith is worth much more than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire. Our faith is precious and the actual trial of our faith is valuable. Though we have not seen God, we love him and though we don’t see him now, we believe in him and are filled with joy (see Jn.20:29). We are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
A Call to Holy Living (vs.13f)
So think clearly and exercise self- control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.
1. Think clearly. Our minds are the centre of our thought processes and what we think directly influence our world. As we think in our heart, so we are. Our thinking will either release or limit us. So think smart and think wise. Get God’s thoughts in your mind. Have the mind of Christ. God’s Word is so amazing, like seed with awesome potential. Thinking clearly is not just for today’s activities but also indicates the need to plan ahead and ensure that God’s will unfolds in our life. It reinforces a proactive approach to life where a person “begins with the end in mind”, puts “first things first” and takes full “responsibility” for their choices. The opposite is a reactive life with no end in mind, second things becoming first and blaming circumstances and other people for what is being reaped.
2. Exercise self-control. Don’t become intoxicated or under the influence of anything. Keep in full control of yourself, your desires, emotions and decisions. Don’t become addicted to anything or become a slave to compulsive behaviour. You be in full control of yourself. Lead your own life. Be strong in spirit so that your soul (mind, will and emotions) and body (with it’s desires and appetites) are under control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit’s life in us and is a mark of maturity.
Successful living starts in the mind (thinking clearly) but then must lead to daily right choices (be self-controlled). This means saying “No” to the evil, the trivial and the time wasters. Then you must say “Yes” to the good, the important and high return activities. God's Spirit helps us to live with a greater awareness of the negative consequences of doing what is wrong or not doing what is right. We can also live with a focus on the benefits of avoiding what is wrong and of doing what is right.
3. “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus is revealed.” Don’t let your hope be in anything else but in God. “Hope” is not a mere wish, but a firm faith in God and his promises that will come to pass. When Jesus comes, grace is revealed. This is not only at the second coming but also, each time he is revealed to you by the Spirit his grace is given in greater measure. You will increase in grace as you set your hope in God and allow Jesus to be revealed in your life through the Spirit.
With our minds prepared for action and our lives disciplined with full control, our hope then is not in our own ability to be the kind of people God’s wants us to in our own strength. Our hope is in the “grace” (the desire and ability to do God’s will) that comes from Jesus being revealed daily in us. Grace is the unmerited and unearned favour of God on our lives. It is his gift of life to us. This brings us back to a life of intimacy with Jesus Christ. He is our life, the living water that we long for. He is the true source of inner satisfaction. There is no true “life” outside of him. All other things are deceptive, empty and meaningless. Once we find life in Christ, then other things take on new meaning ... because of Him.