1 Peter – Introduction – Chapter 1586
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER
No one acquainted with the life of Christ needs any introduction to Peter — Peter the impulsive — the hopeful; and this epistle accords with his character. The keynote is hope (1 Peter 1:3). The occasion of the letter is impending trial; hence the consolation and encouragement. But the greatest exhortation is derived from the change in Peter himself. In the Gospels, Peter saw his Lord transfigured; in this Epistle, we see Peter transfigured by the boundless grace of God. The key-word is "suffering" which is referred to some twenty-one times in this short book, and in every chapter the sufferings of Christ are referred to. But the vision of Peter enables us to look beyond trials to the glory to be ultimately revealed (1 Peter 1:7).
THE WRITER OF THE EPISTLE
The first Epistle of Peter is a most valuable study particularly from two aspects: (a) as a character study of the great Apostle himself; and (b) as a guide to Divine glory.
The Epistle testifies to the transforming power of God. Peter is a changed man, no longer belligerent, boastful and headstrong, but a mellowed "shepherd of the sheep" (Ch. 5:1-4), anxious to tend and guide with care those who might find difficulties in walking the pathway of life. Drawing heavily upon his own past mistakes and experiences he is able to help them.
It is recorded in the Acts that when the people saw the great change wrought in the Apostles of the Lord following his resurrection and ascension, "they marvelled"; and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). We may marvel at the change effected in Peter as evidenced by the Epistle before us, and see in it the impact of Christ upon one who is prepared to receive his instruction. It is valuable to note the sections of the Epistle which obviously have developed out of Peter's own experiences. How deeply his own past failures must have been imbedded on the mind of the Apostle, as he exhorts the brethren to avoid the very things that he himself once committed. He had once impatiently repudiated with oaths the suggestion that he was a follower of Jesus, but now he writes:
"For what glory is it, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God" (Ch. 2:20).
He was the uneasy witness of Christ's sufferings, and could write from personal observation of his Master the following words:
"Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (Ch. 2:22-23).
Again: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and the witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also the partaker of the glory that shall be revealed" (Ch. 5:1).
We read that Peter after he had denied his Lord, and when the fact of his perfidy was brought home to him, went out into the night and "wept bitterly." Could it have been that the memory of those bitter moments caused him to dictate, by very contrast, the words of chapter 3:10-13:
"For he that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous (cp. Luke 22:61), and his ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do eviL And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good."
Peter was one who fell asleep when the Lord called upon him to watch in Gethsemane whilst he strengthened himself in prayer; but now the Apostle writes:
"The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch (keep awake) unto prayer" (Ch 4:7).
There was, furthermore, that poignant discourse, recorded in John Ch. 21, where the Lord asked Peter; "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" And Peter replied: "Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee" (v.15). Three times the question was asked, and three times a similar reply given. The Authorised Version, however, does not do full justice to the incident. We note that the word "love" used by the Lord in the first two questions is, in the Greek agapao, expressive of a self-sacrificing love that sees service to others as the sole concern. Peter in his replies used an entirely different word, phileo, which relates to a tender affection. Such Peter had always had for the Lord, even when in a moment of weakness he denied him. Now recognising his weakness, and remembering his past failing, he was careful not to over-estimate his feelings and abilities, and did not feel worthy of the greater love around which the Lord had built his question. He, therefore, admitted only a tender phileo affection for his Master.
When, on the third occasion, Jesus changed to the very word that Peter had used previously and asked: "lovest (phileo) thou me?" Peter was grieved. It was as if the Lord was calling in question even the very affection Peter claimed to have for him. But, when the question was humbly affirmed, the Lord pointed out that where such affection exists it must be revealed in action: "Feed my sheep."
As a result of this heartsearching conversation the gracious Lord gave Peter the assurance that he would mature even to the point where he would fully manifest that greater quality of agapao love:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God..." (John 21:18-19.)
Thus the conversion of Peter, for which the Lord had prayed earlier (Luke 22:31-32) was to be accomplished in the fullest sense.
The Epistle before us gives evidence of the fulfilment of the Lord's prediction. It reveals to us a transformed character, quiet, mature, and much different from the Peter introduced to us by the Gospel records. But notice how Peter himself draws upon this very incident, in exhorting his brethren. Virtually, he suggests that they should learn by his experience. So he writes in this Epistle:
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth unto unfeigned love (phileo) of the brethren, see that ye love (agapao) one another with a pure heart fervently" (Ch. 1:22).
Again the A.V. clouds the import of what is being said, as the reader can see. The two words rendered "love" in this statement are entirely different in the original Greek text. Peter is exhorting the brethren in exactly the same terms as the Lord exhorted him; he is calling upon them to see that their phileo love develops into the self-sacrificing agape love such as Christ exhibited when he "laid down his life for the sheep."
There are many similar exhortations in this letter that obviously are developed out of Peter's personal experience. It is very profitable to note these points, and to observe the great change in outlook and character exhibited by the Apostle.
THUS WE LEARN OF THE TRANSFORMING INFLUENCE OF CHRIST'S POWER IN THE LIFE OF HIS SERVANT.
Simon Peter, son of Jonah (or the Hearing Rock filled with the Dove—the symbol of Christ—Matt. 12:39), was a fisherman of Bethsaida (House of Fish) who became a foremost "fisher of men" (Matt. 4:19). He was in partnership with his brother and James and John, the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10). Though it is not specifically stated, he was probably a disciple of John Baptist, but he was introduced to Jesus by Andrew his brother (John 1:35-41), and given the name of Peter (Rock or Stone) by the Lord (v.42).
He did not immediately follow the Lord, but was given three calls: Firstly, as a disciple (John Ch. 1); secondly, as a companion (Matt. 4:19); and, thirdly, as an Apostle (Mk. 3:14-16; Luke 6:13-14).
He also made a threefold confession of Christ (Matt. 14:33; 16:16; John 6:68-69), each one more vehement than the preceding, and a threefold denial of the Lord which was, however, atoned for by a threefold protestation of love (John 21:15-17).
His ardor, earnestness, courage, vigor, and impulsiveness of disposition caused him to make mistakes, but also brought him to the forefront of the disciples (Matt. 10:2; Mk. 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13—he is always mentioned first). His impulsiveness caused him to be first to confess Jesus as Son of God (Matt. 16:16), but then, immediately afterwards, to be equally forward in dissuading the Lord from his chosen path of suffering (Matt. 16:22). For these two contradictory approaches he was appropriately praised and then blamed.
His life reveals him as naturally impulsive (Matt. 14:28; 17:4; John 21:7), tenderhearted and affectionate (Matt. 26:75; John 13:9; 21:15-17), possessing spiritual insight (John 6:68), and yet sometimes being very slow to grasp deeper truths (Matt. 15:15-16). He was thus courageous in testimony, yet guilty of cowardly denial (Matt. 16:16; John 18:10; Mark 14:67-71), self-sacrificing, yet inclined towards self-seeking (Matt. 19:27), and even presumptuous (Matt. 16:22; John 13:8; 18:10). Once his mind was made up, however, he was immovable in his convictions (Acts 4:19-20; 5:28-29, 40-42).
The Bible records three stages of spiritual development in his life:
His Training: This comprised his association with the Lord in his public ministry, and concluded with Christ's testimony of confidence on his behalf (John 21:18-19).
His Leadership: He revealed firm, bold leadership in the early ecclesia, initiating the appointment of Matthias to take the place of Judas (Acts 1:15); proclaiming the Gospel publicly at Pentecost (Acts 2:14); healing, preaching and defending the faith (Acts 3:4, 12; 4:8); rebuking and judging Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3, 8); preaching the truth to Cornelius and baptising Gentiles (Acts Ch.10); and openly advocating his word at the Jerusalem conference (Acts Ch.15). But despite this bold and forthright leadership, which was the very thing the Ecclesia then required, the character of Peter was not then perfected. Paul found this to be the case, when he had to oppose and rebuke him at Antioch, "because he was to be blamed" (Gal. 2:11-14).
His Shepherding: After the foundations of the Ecclesia had been laid, Peter gradually withdrew himself from the limelight, taking upon himself a more humble and subordinate position. James dominated in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Gal. 2:9, 12), and Paul did so among the Gentiles. Peter became known as the Apostle to the circumcision (Gal. 2:8), and seemed to limit his activities to those outside Jerusalem: Antioch (Gal. 2:11); Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12); Babylon (1 Pet. 5:13), where, with his wife, he became a familiar figure (1 Cor. 9:5). In obedience to the command of Christ, he set himself to guiding and feeding the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-4), and in this was no longer self-assertive as before (cp. 2 Pet. 3:15-16 with Gal. 2:11-14). Thus he finally appears in the Bible records as a completely changed man, far more powerful in his humility than he ever had been in his self-assertiveness.
EACH PHASE OF PETER'S LIFE GIVES TESTIMONY TO THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF CHRIST'S EXAMPLE (see Acts 4:13).
Always eager, ardent, impulsive, always the man of action, he exhibited defects as well as qualities of character. His virtues and faults had a common root in his natural enthusiasm. But it is to his praise that his rashness was modified through truth, and by his burning zeal to follow the Lord. He was afforded special treatment by Christ, being given special attention even during the most painful period of the Lord's ministry (Luke 22:31) and afterwards (John 21:15), and being treated with the honor of a special appearance by Christ after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:5).
Peter's experiences afford instruction, warning and comfort. His two Epistles reveal the depths of experience in Christ, and soar to the utmost heights of hope as he looks to the future.
Tradition suggests that he visited Rome during the reign of Nero, and a few years later suffered martyrdom by crucifixion, as Christ had predicted he would (John 21:19). Legend has it that Peter deemed himself unworthy to die in exactly the same way as his Lord had, and so begged his executioners to crucify him upside down, which, accordingly, was done.
THE EPISTLES AS KEYS OF THE KINGDOM
In Caesarea Philippi, Peter made the notable confession: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," in reply to which, the Lord declared:
"Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Ecclesia; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven ..." (Matt. 16:17-18).
There are significant aspects in this statement deserving our attention. Firstly, there is a play upon the words Peter and Rock,for Peter means Rock. But there is also a significant difference in the words here used in the context. The word Peter is Petros in Greek, and signifies a loose, rolling stone; whereas the word Rock is Petra, and signifies an immovable rock! Peter, as a loose, rolling stone, can be built into an immovable place in the spiritual temple on the foundation of Christ. So taught Peter himself (1 Pet. 2:4-5). But the Petra, the immovable rock, did not refer to the man, but to THE DECLARATION HE MADE: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
It is on the foundation of this God-inspired declaration that the Ecclesia is founded.
It is significant to note in passing, that this declaration is affirming that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, and the Son of God. That which men are pleased to call "the church" is not prepared to accept this declaration, but rejects it. "The church" knows not the true hope of Israel, and therefore does not comprehend the true position of Christ as Messiah. It furthermore claims that he is God, not the SON OF GOD.
Only those who identify themselves with the original declaration of Peter are confirmed by the words of Christ as the true Ecclesia.
The Lord, in presenting the "Keys of the Kingdom" to Peter, also told the disciples:
"Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound hi heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed hi heaven."
This statement is perhaps better rendered as it is in the C. B. Williams translation of the Bible:
"Whatever you forbid on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth must be what is permitted in heaven."
Accepting this translation, Jesus was instructing his disciples that the Ecclesia, founded on the declaration of Peter, must act in strict conformity to the will of God. All that it forbids, all that it permits, must be in accordance with the will of the Father, and it must learn to act within the compass of His Word.
To Peter, then, were entrusted the keys of the Kingdom, and he proceeded to use them, first to unlock the mysteries of the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus Christ to Jews on the day of Pentecost, and later, as recorded in Acts Ch. 10, to Cornelius, the Gentile.
What did Peter bring home to the notice of both Jews and Gentiles in using those keys? What, but the two keys that are essential to unlock the door that will reveal the Kingdom! And what are they? The truths concerning the SUFFERINGS of Christ, and the GLORY that shall follow. Christ is the door (John 10:9),
and in him we see how the sufferings of the cross had to come before the crown.
These two aspects of the Divine purpose were brought home to the Apostles immediately after the Lord had declared that he would deliver the keys of the kingdom unto them. He "began to shew unto his disciples, how he must suffer" (Matt. 16:21). Here was the "first key". It was one that the disciples did not appreciate at that particular time (cp. Vv. 22-23). Next Jesus afforded them a glimpse of the "second key"—namely: the glory that should follow. "After six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them" (Matt. 17:1-2)—and so they saw his glory. It was a vision of the kingdom, and though they did not know it then, Jesus was handing them the other key, whereby they were enabled to unlock the "door" and behold the future.
It is significant, in the light of the above transactions, that Peter should write two epistles which reveal the twofold aspect of the Kingdom and the Name. In 1 Peter 1:11 he makes reference to "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow," and refers to the majesty revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus Christ's example of suffering and glory is equivalent to the two Keys of the Kingdom, and Peter uses them, firstly at Pentecost, and afterwards for the conversion of Cornelius.
These two keys are presented to view in Peter's two epistles.
THE FIRST brings vividly before us the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 1:11; 2:21; 3:17-18; 4:1, 13).
THE SECOND shows us the glory (2 Pet. 1:4, 17; 3:9-13).
Thus Peter does for us what the Lord did on the road to Ernmaus, when he instructed two disciples in the skilful use of these two keys (see Luke 24:25-27).
In type is Israel, Second Part, Chapter One, Brother Thomas shows how the "Keys of the Kingdom" were given unto Peter that he might unlock the secrets of the Gospel and reveal the way to life eternal to "whosoever hath ears to hear". This he did, first to Jews on the Day of Pentecost, and, second to Gentiles in the preaching of the Truth to Cornelius. In this manner, the way of the Kingdom was publicly opened to both Jews and Gentiles (hence the need of two keys). Bro. Thomas summarises this section of his invaluable exposition in the following manner:
"After this manner Peter used the keys of the kingdom of heaven given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. When he had accomplished this work, he no longer retained the power of the keys. They were transferred to the multitude of the believing Jews and Gentiles. The spirit had revealed the mystery of the kingdom, and the fellowship of the mystery, by the mouth of Peter on Pentecost, and at Caesarea; so that the keys became the common property of all believers. The Lord 'who hath the key of David, hath opened, and no man can shut'; (Rev. 3:7-8) He hath set before the Gentiles 'an open door, and no man can close it', so long as the scriptures are in the hands of the people. The false prophet may dangle keys at his girdle, and affect the power of the Son of God; but so long as "THE LAW AND THE TESTIMONY' are accessible 'whosoever is athirst may come; and whosoever will may take the water of life freely'. The scriptures contain the keys. Popes, priests, clergy, and ministers may suppress, torture, and garble the truth, and throw hindrances in the way; but the man who discards their authority, and thinks for himself, may by the enlightening efficacy of the living word, become 'wise unto salvation by the faith which is in Jesus Christ'. Let the people then help themselves, if they would that God should aid them."
THE SETTING OF THE EPISTLE
Peter's Epistles were primarily directed to the same persons to whom James wrote. Their main purpose was the stabilising of brethren who were passing through a period of extreme suffering and testing. Peter, therefore, added to the main thought of James. Whereas James emphasised that faith must be manifested by works, Peter added that it is the trial of faith that will perfect works.
Peter had discovered that truth in his own life. In the solemn days in which Christ had foretold Peter's fall and restoration, he had declared: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you (i.e. the Apostles), that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy (Peter's) faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). In both his epistles the apostle carried out that commission.
The letter abounds with references to his own experiences. He epitomises the purpose of his writing as both "exhorting and testifying" (1 Peter 5:12). He exhorts his brethren on the basis of his own experiences, and he testifies, or witnesses, to the truth in Christ Jesus, having personal evidence of all that he stood for. The following analysis of the Epistle exhibits the Gospel as a way of life; whilst its contents witnesses to the transforming power of Christ in the author's personal experiences.
The Epistle warns of impending persecution that would be experienced by believers, and which would try them to the uttermost (see Ch. 4:12-5:11). This evidently related to that initiated by Nero against the Christians, following the burning of Rome. Nero reigned from A.D. 54-68. He has the reputation of being one of the most brutal rulers in history. He was only 16 when he began to reign. Seneca, the great Roman philosopher, was his teacher and adviser in the early years of his rule. Despite Seneca's help the power of his position went to Nero's head. He had his wife and mother murdered, and ordered Seneca and the poet Lucan to kill themselves.
In A.D. 64, a terrible fire swept Rome. Historians claim that Nero set the fire. And it is rumoured that he watched the flames while singing about the burning of Troy. In order to divert attention from himself, he claimed that Christians were guilty of the crime, and in punishment, he initiated the most frightful persecution of all time. For several months innocent Christians were ruthlessly executed. Men, women and children were put into an arena to face wild beasts that cruelly tore them to pieces, whilst huge crowds watched and cheered. In the evenings Nero staged "entertainment" in which Christians were soaked in tar, tied to tall poles, and then set on fire to provide light. The squares were illuminated by the blazing torches of the burning bodies of men and women whose only crime was their determination to serve their God according to their conscience.
Though this persecution was mainly limited to Rome itself, the repercussions were felt elsewhere. When persecution spread throughout the empire, laws were passed making it a crime to be a Christian. Worship, then, had to be held in secret.
In A.D. 66 the Jewish revolt broke out, and Nero despatched Vespasian to suppress it. This inaugurated the Jewish war that led to the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. The antagonism for Jewish people this created throughout the Roman Empire was felt also by the Christians, for many Gentiles confused the former with the latter.
In view of Peter's prophetic warning of persecution to come (see Ch. 4:12), this Epistle, written from Babylon (Ch. 5:13), was probably penned about the year A.D. 60. It provided sound, practical advice on how believers were to live in view of the pressures and trials that were to try their faith.
There are two methods of Bible study: the telescopic and the microscopic. The former takes the overall view of an episde; the latter deals with it verse by verse. Both systems of study are necessary to understand fully the matters of Divine revelat'on.
When we have grasped and memorised the telescopic outline, we are able to discern instantly the context in which a particular verse or statement is found, and are thereby better equipped to comprehend the meaning of that verse or statement.
We herewith set out an analysis of the Epistle, and suggest that the student read through at one sitting the whole of the Epistle with this outline before him.
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER TRIUMPH IN TRIBULATION
The first of the two keys committed unto Peter, revealing the sufferings of Christ preceding his glory (Ch. 1:11) by means of which the doors of the Kingdom will be opened.
1. INTRODUCTION — Ch. 1:1-2
The Definition of a Christian — Ch. 1: 1- 2;
2. THE CALL AND WHAT IT INVOLVES —Ch. 1:3-2:10
Our Living Hope — Ch. 1: 3-12;
The Living Way — Ch. 1:13-16;
The Living Sacrifice — Ch. 1:17-21;
The Living Word — Ch. 1:22-25;
The Living Power — Ch. 2: 1- 3;
The Living Stones — Ch. 2: 4- 8;
The Living Priesthood — Ch. 2: 9-10;
3. THE PILGRIM LIFE AND HOW TO LIVE IT — Ch. 2:11-4:11
Towards the World — Ch. 2:11-17;
Towards Masters — Ch. 2:18-25;
Towards Husbands — Ch. 3:1-6;
Towards Wives — Ch. 3:7;
Towards Brethren — Ch. 3: 8-9;
Towards Outsiders — Ch. 3:10-13;
Towards Persecution — Ch. 3:14-17;
Imitating Christ, the Pattern — Ch. 3:18-22;
The Weapons of Victory —Ch. 4:1-11;
4. THE FIERY TRIAL AND HOW TO BEAR IT — Ch. 4:12-5:11
As Partakers of Christ's Sufferings — Ch. 4:12-19;
As Elders Providing an Example — Ch. 5: 1-4;
As the Flock Submitting in Humility — Ch. 5: 5-11;
5. FINAL WORDS — Ch. 5:12-14
Life in the Truth is not supposed to be easy, we are being taught by God
HP Mansfield – 1 Peter
What were the characteristics of Peter in the Gospel naratives
What were the characteristics of Peter when we get to the Epistles
What lessons can gather from the changes seen in Peter?
How can we nurture changes in one another for the better within our Ecclesias?