First Peter was a letter written by Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples and a key leader in the early church in Jerusalem, to persecuted Gentile Christians living in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey, around the early 60s A.D.
Peter wrote this letter with the help of his co-worker Silas, or Silvanus, to encourage churches in Asia Minor in the midst of suffering and trials.
The letter opens with a greeting to these churches and goes on to praise God for the hope and new life that Christians have through Jesus (1 Peter 1:1-4).
Peter then explains that through trials and suffering, our faith in Jesus is refined and strengthened for the glory of God, and that because of this, Christians are called to live holy lives, no matter their circumstances (1 Peter 1:5-9).
Peter also uses Old Testament verses and symbols to show these Gentile Christians (and all Christians) that they are God’s chosen, holy people, who share in the fulfillment of God’s promises to the people of Israel and who should live their lives as such (1 Peter 1:10-2:12).
Peter then lays out some specific examples for how to live holy lives. They are to submit to Roman rule and to love and care for those in authority, even though it may be oppressive, because they have been liberated by Jesus, who modeled that we should love our enemies—not harm them—and resist evil (1 Peter 2:13-17). In fact, Peter explains that suffering is a way that we bear witness to Jesus and share in His mission to share the Gospel among the nations.
In Chapters 3 and 4, Peter further develops his reasoning for persecution and suffering among Christians. He explains that just as Jesus was justified for His suffering on the cross by being seated at the right hand of the Father, so too will Christians be justified in eternity for their suffering.
Peter encourages Christians to step into the new lives that they have in Christ by putting off their old ways and living holy, righteous lives filled with love, hospitality, peacemaking and humble service.
In Chapter 5, Peter issues a charge for church leaders and mature Christians to care for those who are suffering. He then reminds readers that the real enemy they are facing isn’t a person, a political party or a culture, but Satan, and reminds them to flee from evil and to remain faithful to Jesus to the very end. He calls on the reader to remember the teachings of Jesus and to eagerly wait for His return, when He will have ultimate, final victory over evil.
Peter closes his letter with a prayer for divine strength and humble, steadfast faith for God’s people.
A new family identity: Though First Peter is written to non-Jewish Christians, Peter uses Old Testament language and symbolism throughout his letter to show these Gentiles that they too are a part of God’s chosen family because of their faith in Jesus, who has “given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection” (1 Peter 1:3).
Suffering and witness: Throughout Peter’s letter, he reminds Christians that suffering for following Christ should not be a surprise, but rather an opportunity to show God’s love and generosity to others.
Future hope in Christ: Peter reminds Christians over and over that their ultimate hope is not in this world, but in the one to come. He reminds them that our hope lies with Christ, who will one day return and bring about His eternal Kingdom.
1 Peter 1:3-12
1 Peter 2:4-12
1 Peter 4
1 Peter 5:5-11
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
First Peter serves as a reminder to all Christians that Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy. Many who follow Christ will face persecution and hardship.
It’s important to note that persecution is a unique hardship. When Peter talks about suffering, he does not mean suffering the consequences of our sins, but suffering for doing good and following Jesus.
But persecution is not a curse, but a gift. Although it is painful, suffering is an opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering and to display the generous love of Christ to others.
In this life, suffering and persecution is expected, but for those who follow Christ, hope is not found in any ruler or authority of this world, but in the Most High King, Jesus, who is our living hope.