1 Peter: Grace in the Midst of Suffering

The following is a free online Bible commentary on 1 Peter. It contains study notes and insights from Pastor Ed Underwood.

Since this page is a FULL commentary on 1 Peter, you may not be able to read it all in one sitting.

So if you are leading a Bible study on 1 Peter or preaching through 1 Peter in your church, you may want to bookmark this page and return to it frequently for your own study purposes.

1 Peter—Stand fast in grace!

Experiencing Grace in the Midst of Suffering

“I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you,and testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it” (1 Peter 5:12, NET Bible).

Overview

It’s 64 AD. Paul’s death under the cruel persecution of the wicked Emperor Nero staggers Christianity. The infant church questions God’s goodness and power, especially on the frontiers of faith—the fledgling assemblies scattered throughout the five provinces of Asia Minor. Today that area is northern Turkey.

The news of Paul’s death and the raw threat of persecution and suffering forces the young church and its even younger shepherds and flocks to ask the questions every follower of Christ will ask:

If God is good, then how could He allow this to happen to us? I thought He loved us!

If Christ is building His church, then why is this so hard? I thought we were the world’s only hope!

Someone needed to step in with the answers to those faith-shattering questions.

Someone needed to bring God’s message to these stumbling fellowships.

Someone needed to teach these immature shepherds and their flocks how to access grace in the midst of suffering.

Someone did. The Apostle Peter writes from his own experience. Our study of Mark traced Peter’s personal struggle with the Lord’s hard message: Those who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to suffer and serve in His name.⇦Tweet that!

The lessons Peter learned along the way are the lessons he teaches in this letter to the church. Lessons that take followers of Christ beyond the anticipation of suffering to the expectation of power and grace in the midst of suffering. Lessons to carry you through your darkest days. Lessons to show you how the light of God’s grace in Christ Jesus will penetrate your darkest days and fill you with a joy only those who continue to follow will ever know:

Grace is never more powerful than when life hurts the most!⇦Tweet that!

First Peter is a field manual for warriors serving their King in a hostile land.
I.   Peter encourages Christians to persevere during hard times by reminding us of who we are and exhorting us to live as if it’s true.

A. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter from Rome to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, living as aliens in a hostile land under a hostile king.

1.  In the same way Peter referred to Mark symbolically as “my son,” he referred to the Roman church as “she who is in Babylon” (5:13). Peter chose the term “Babylon” to emphasize the evil of the Roman Empire without explicitly referring to it in ways that put the church at risk. This also emphasizes the “alien” dynamic recalling Israel’s exile to Babylon where they lived as aliens in a hostile land.

2.  Peter is specifically writing to the geographical areas in Asia Minor where Paul’s ministry barely penetrated (Acts 16:6-7). These congregations were mixed, Jewish-Gentile. His heavy use of the Old Testament and referral to “elect strangers of the dispersion” (1:1) identifies the Jewish believers. His reference to them as a people who “once were no people, but now you are a people of God” (2:10), and the exhortation not to live any longer as “Gentiles” (4:4) identifies the Gentile believers.

3.  It seems Peter used Sylvanus as the editor and courier of this letter (5:12). Sylvanus, a traveling companion of Paul would have been familiar to the Gentile readers and more acquainted with Paul’s writings. Peter, of course, was known as a pillar of the church.

B. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage these congregations in the faith in the face of growing persecution and to affirm the teachings of Paul.

1.  Paul’s death left them vulnerable to those who opposed Paul’s radical message of grace.

2.  Paul’s death left them discouraged and doubting God’s goodness and power in the face of suffering.

C. Outline: Peter reminds us of who we are in Christ and then tells us to live our lives as if it’s true—even during hard times.

1.  Introduction: This is a letter to God’s elect, living as scattered aliens in a hostile land under a hostile king (1:1-2).

2.  Bless God whose mercy has recreated us in Christ (1:3-2:10).

a.  We have a precious salvation which gives us hope and joy was predicted by the prophets and desired by the angels (1:23-12).

b.  Our precious salvation compels us to a holy life as our Father’s obedient children who love Him and His children (1:13-25).

c.  We have become a chosen priesthood who crave His word and offer genuine worship because we are God’s new spiritual house built upon the precious stone the builders rejected and His new nation to the praise of His glory (2:1-10).

3.  Live for God by honoring Him in your relationship with this world and one another (2:11-5:11).

a.  Live for God in the world by abstaining from sin and living good lives before non-Christians, respecting everyone (including authorities) selflessly (2:11-3:12), suffering well by remembering God is good, following Christ’s example, hoping in heaven (3:13-4:6), and by clinging to one another to face the hard times together (4:7-11).

b.  Live for God in the church by remembering that the time to serve one another is short (4:7-11), knowing that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ (4:12-19), and persevering in spite of suffering (5:1-11).

D. Conclusion: This is a letter encouraging you to stand firm in God’s grace from your friends in the church at Rome.

II.  The question isn’t, “Will I suffer for Christ?” The question is, “Will I know how to access His grace when I suffer for Christ?”

A. The Cornerstone of our faith is a Person—Jesus Christ. Intimacy with Him will make every difference during hard times.

B. He is the Cornerstone of a community of faith—the church. Intimacy with His people will make every difference during hard times.

C. It’s one thing to say suffering for Christ is a privilege, it’s quite another to believe it. How can your community of faith help you believe that glorifying the Cornerstone of our faith is worth the pain?

D. Remember that Peter learned his lessons on suffering for Christ the hard way—through failure, guilt, and shame.

The Fullest Measure of Grace and Peace!

1 Peter 1:1-2

“May grace and peace be yours in ever greater measures”

(1 Peter 1:2, Ed’s translation).

1 Peter is a tender reminder of this reality and a powerful prompter to rely on the only resources we have as we serve our coming King in kingdoms that are not His yet: Our status as pilgrims isn’t a mistake that surprises our God. He always planned it this way. We are not alone because we gather in pilgrim communities:

God pours His grace and peace into the lives of faithful pilgrims!⇦Tweet that!

The carefully crafted letter of the First Century followed a definite form. Like the colors of the rainbow captured in a raindrop, Peter’s first two sentences condense the hopeful themes of his letter to Christian pilgrims living in a hostile land.

I.   Peter introduces his letter with powerful and eloquent reminders of believers’ status as pilgrims and the Father’s provisions for His people in a hostile world (1 Peter 1:1-2).

A. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter from Rome to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, living as aliens in a hostile land under a hostile king (1:1).

1.  Unlike Paul, Peter doesn’t need to defend his apostleship. Imagine the power of his words in the hearts of these lonely and discouraged Christians on the frontiers of faith in Asia Minor.

2.  Using the imagery of Israel’s Babylonian captivity, Peter writes as a fellow-pilgrim in a community of pilgrims to another community of pilgrims dispersed and living as aliens in a hostile land.

3.  The word translated “pilgrim” means strangers living in a strange land, sojourners, resident aliens, exiled pilgrims staying for a while in an unfamiliar and unfriendly environment. The word translated “Dispersion” is used in the New Testament to describe Christians living dispersed in this world, far from their heavenly home.

B. The Apostle Peter reminds pilgrim Christians of our status in God’s eyes to encourage us to anticipate His provisions for faithful pilgrims (1:2).

1.  Regardless of where Christians live on earth, we live there with the Father’s full knowledge as His chosen ones, set apart and being transformed by the Spirit, and set free by the blood of Jesus Christ to serve Him.

2.  Faithful pilgrims will experience the fullest measure of this grace and peace.

II.  When you’re feeling like you can’t go on in this messed up and hurtful world, remember…

A. Your circumstances do not surprise God; neither does He necessarily want to change them.

1.  Not only did He always know you would live right where you are right now in the exact conditions you’re living in, but He actually chose it all especially for you.

2.  Do you sometimes feel you’re living a “mistaken” or a “serves-you-right” life, a life God must not be aware of and would surely change if you just got His attention or earned a little more of His love?

3.  What do these feeling say about you? Your God? The first two verses of Peter’s epistle?

B. Your status as a pilgrim is the clearest evidence of the Father’s love for you.

1.  You are precious to Him—He chose you as His special child to be transformed by His Spirit and released to your glorious destiny by the forgiveness and power that is yours in Christ.

2.  Do you sometimes feel you’re one of His “stepchildren,” one of those He had to let into His family because you did, after all, receive Christ.

3.  What do these feeling say about you? Your God? The first two verses of Peter’s epistle?

C. You are not alone in your lonely pilgrim feelings.

1.  Christians live as a people not quite home in the places we live in this world longing for our true home in the world to come.

2.  Do you sometimes feel you’re the only one living with these feelings, that you’re all alone?

3.  Peter’s letter will remind you that you’re not alone. Pilgrims just like you are connecting in “pilgrim communities” around the world, just as in Peter’s day (2:9, 5:13).

D. Your faithfulness to your pilgrim calling is the surest way to experience the fullest measure of God’s grace and peace.

1.  Could it be the most difficult situation in your life today is Jesus’ invitation to ever increasing measures of His grace and peace?

2.  Could it be that He is asking you to trust Him as the coming King of the home you long for and to trust His pilgrim community to experience this grace and peace?

Blessed by God!

1 Peter 1:3-12

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hopethrough the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

It’s 64 AD. Paul’s death under the cruel persecution of the wicked Emperor Nero staggers Christianity. The infant church questions God’s goodness and power, especially on the frontiers of faith—the fledgling assemblies scattered throughout the five provinces of Asia Minor. Today that area is northern Turkey.

The deeply discouraging news of Paul’s death served as undeniable evidence of the status of Christians in this messed up and hurtful world: We don’t fit! As aliens in a hostile land we are a people not quite at home living in places where we will never belong.

Following his introduction, Peter encourages his readers by reminding them of who they are as the people of God in 1:3-2:10. Believers have received a radically precious salvation (1:3-12); believers have received a radically new way of life (1:13-25), and believers have received a new community—a chosen priesthood (2:1-10). Peter’s words in 1:3-12 turn our attention from all that we suffer here on earth to all that we will enjoy in heaven:

When life on earth hurts, think about this:

The joy your faithfulness brings to the heart of the God who loves you!⇦Tweet that!

Peter has already promised the greatest measure of faith and peace to faithful pilgrims. Now he tells us why we can be faithful pilgrims—God’s great redemptive work through Christ means that we are not the same and live with a radical hope.

I. Peter begins the body of his letter by reminding us of all that our so great salvation means to us: Our worst day on earth does not compare to that great first day in Christ’s presence (1 Peter 1:3-12).

A. Peter joins his readers in praising God for our living hope because of our precious salvation that will be fully revealed on the last day (1:3-5).

1. Praise our Merciful Begetter—the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who regenerated us (rebirthed us (v 23, John 3:3) only because of His abundant mercy to our living hope (present with us every day on earth) secured by His decisive, historical and powerful act of mercy—raising Jesus from the dead (3).

2. The reason we praise Him (as aliens in this hostile land where we suffer and struggle) is that He has secured and is reserving our inheritance in heaven for each of us personally. And He is also keeping all that our faith trusts Him for—the fullest measure of our salvation—that will be revealed on the last day.

Note: I believe this is speaking of serving Jesus Christ faithfully to receive the reward God is reserving for us. This is dependent on our faith in following and determines the scope of our salvation that will be revealed on the last day—for believers that is the Rapture and the Judgment Seat of Christ. God is protecting our inheritance and us by His power.

Dr. Tom Constable on this verse and our inheritance: “As the Israelites anticipated their inheritance, the Promised Land, so Christians should anticipate ours, the other side of the grave. However ours is not subject to destruction from any source, defilement from without, or decay from within. Peter played with words when he described three characteristics of our inheritance. Each Greek word begins with the same letter and ends with the same syllable: imperishable (aphtharton), undefiled (amianton), and unfading (amaranton). No one can ravage or pollute our inheritance, and it will not wear out or waste away.

What is it exactly? Our inheritance is Jesus Christ Himself and the blessings that He has promised us (cf. 1 John 3:2; Col. 3:4; Eph. 1:14; Rom. 8:11, 18-23).All Christians will not obtain the same amount of inheritance (cf. 2 Tim.2:12; Matt. 25:14-30; et al.), but every Christian will obtain much inheritance. Heaven will be the portion of all, but rewards will vary (1Cor. 3:14-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 John 8).”

B. Peter expands two words already introduced: The greatness of the joy we will experience on the last day, and the greatness of the full and final salvation awaiting us on that day (4-12).

1. The joy we anticipate on the last day (v. 5) eclipses the suffering we experience today.

a. We can rejoice now because the trials and grief of following Christ are actually making our faith more precious to God (6-7).

Note: I believe that the point here isn’t to see if faith exists. The testing by fire perfects gold. The gold is already there. From God’s perspective, our faith has something in common with gold—it becomes more precious as it is tested by the fire of suffering. Our joy on the last day will have more to do with His delight in us rather than our delight over proving something to Him.

b. We will rejoice because we will receive the full and final deliverance of our souls (our person)– all that we have become by walking by faith rather than by sight (8-9).

2. The salvation we were rebirthed to is the salvation the prophets declared would come through grace, secured by the suffering Christ—a salvation even the angels wanted to know more about (10-12).

II. When you’re feeling like you can’t go on in this messed up and hurtful world, remember…

A. You’re saved now and forever—delivered from your sin by the Living God.

1. Not because you deserved it, but because of His mercy.

2. Delivered to an inheritance that, in spite of what’s going on here on earth, He is preserving in heaven for you.

3. Never having to worry about your full and final deliverance to all you have trusted Him for because He is keeping you for the day that will be revealed.

B. Your faith in the hope of your salvation now means you will have more joy on the last day.

1. The more you trust God through the suffering you’re experiencing today, the more precious your faith is becoming to Him, and the greater your joy on the last day.

2. The more you trust Christ now, even though you can’t see Him, the more you will receive from Him, and the greater your joy on the last day.

C. Your salvation is the salvation the prophets spoke of and the angels wondered about!

This is the salvation secured by the Suffering Servant who would be glorified as the Reigning King—and you’re a part of both the suffering and the glory you share with Him now and then.

A New Way of Life!

1 Peter 1:13-25

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace

that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

(1 Peter 1:13)

Following his introduction, Peter encourages his readers by reminding them of who they are as the people of God in 1:3-2:10. Believers have received a radically precious salvation (1:3-12); believers have received a radically new way of life (1:13-25), and believers have received a new community—a chosen priesthood (2:1-10).

The living hope our Father gave us freely through Christ (1:3-12) enables us to live as if it’s true—obediently, reverently, and lovingly:

Celebrate your living hope by living hopefully:⇦Tweet that!

Holy like your Father, reverence to your Father, and loving His children!

After a breathtaking view of our so great salvation, Peter tells us to get ready to live for the One who rebirthed us to this living hope.

I.   Peter tells his readers who have received new life in Christ to live the new life they have received—holiness as the Father’s obedient children, reverence for the Father they are accountable to, and fervent love toward all His children (1 Peter 1:13-25).

A. Now that you’ve surveyed your new life in Christ, make up your mind to live a holy life because your Father who called you is holy (13-16).

1.  Rest (fix) your hope completely upon the grace that is yours through Christ by living as your Father’s obedient children—separated from the evil desires, concerns, and priorities of your former life before you knew better (13-14).

2.  Be holy in your life because your Father who called you is holy (15-16).

B. Now that you have a new Holy Father, relate to Him reverently because He is the One you are accountable to, the One who always planned to redeem you with the precious blood of Christ to give you new hope (17-21).

1.  Emphasizing our alien status and the price of our redemption, Peter tells us to fear our Father’s impartial judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ (17-19, Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

2.  God’s forever plan to reveal Christ and the offer of eternal life to all who believe is the only reason for the hope we live with (20-21).

C. Now that you’ve been purified by your obedience to the truth of the Gospel—the incorruptible seed of the Word of God (Matthew 13:20; Luke 8:11)—love those who share your faith unremittingly (constantly and with endurance—even during hard times and disagreement) (22-25).

II.  When you’re feeling like you can’t go on in this messed up and hurtful world, remember that you’ve been given a new way of life and that you have the capacity to live it! If you want more hope, live hopefully!

A. Fix your hope by living a holy life! Be Holy!

1.  What resource of grace do you need to make up your mind to rest in? That is, what unholiness in your life are you telling yourself, God, and others that you don’t have the power to change?

2.  Could it be that you’re losing hope because of the unholiness in your life?

3.  What part of your former, ignorant life are you most thankful you’ve left behind?

4.  What part of your former, ignorant life are you still clinging to?

B. Fix your hope by relating to your Father reverently! Walk through life as if you belong to your Father—relate to Him reverently!

1.  What sin or shortcoming in your life are you telling yourself and others that your impartial Father will just overlook and say “It’s okay” at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

2.  Could it be that you’re losing hope because of the irreverent ways you’re relating to your Heavenly Father?

3.  How does meditating on the price of your salvation motivate you toward the reverence of your Father that will increase your faith and hope?

C. Fix your hope by loving your brothers and sisters in the family of God! Love one another!

1.  How are you denying the truth that when you believed in Christ God purified your life so that you really can fervently love all of His children?

2.  Could it be that you’re losing hope because of your lack of love for your brothers and sisters in Christ?

3.  What is one specific way you can increase your hope by loving that one Christian your Father is asking you to love sincerely and unremittingly?

4.  How are you lying to yourself, God, and others by saying that the forever-abiding Word of God isn’t growing in your life in ways that increase your love for other Christians?

Here is a great quote from author and theologian, Kenneth Boa concerning the relationship between our new life in Christ that is all by grace through faith and our responsibility to live out that life: “We really have become new creatures; we are part of a new species with a new heredity and inheritance as children of God and citizens of heaven. We have been removed from death in Adam to life in Christ. Eternal life is Christ’s life, and we received His life at the time of our spiritual birth. Christ is not merely alongside us or in front of us; He is in us, and He wants to express His life through us. Moreover, the New Testament is even more emphatic that we are in Him. We are in a position of victory in Christ who is at the right hand of God…. This is not a matter of passivity but of active choice that is energized by divine grace. Nor is this a matter of sinless perfection, but of gradual growth in a context of spiritual warfare against the flesh, the world, and the devil. The flesh (the capacity to live life in our own power rather than in the power of the Spirit) is neither removed nor improved; we will not be rid of this propensity until we are resurrected.”

A New Community!

1 Peter 2:1-10

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Following his introduction, Peter encourages his readers by reminding them of who they are as the people of God in 1:3-2:10. Believers have received a radically precious salvation (1:3-12); believers have received a radically new way of life (1:13-25), and believers have received a new community—a chosen priesthood (2:1-10).

Peter’s radical teaching on the church tells Christians living as aliens in this messed up and hurtful world that we can’t make it alone, we need our new community:

You can’t make it on your own:

You need a radically healthy New Testament community!⇦Tweet that!

Because we have received new life and a new way of living, we need a place to express this new life: the holy nation of New Testament priests—the church of the Living God!

I. Peter tells his readers there is only one support system on earth for Christians living as aliens in a hostile world—the nourishing, living, proclaiming, and awesome community of those who have received mercy (1 Peter 1:13-25).

A. Since you have new life and are called to a new way of life, stop hurting one another so that you can be nourished by the Word of God and grow up! Why? Because you’ve all tasted the grace of Jesus (1-3).

1. Peter connects unifying behaviors to our new life in Christ and to our capacity to grow by the Word of God (1-2, therefore—1:3-25).

2. Peter connects our desire for the nourishment of the Word of God to our experience of the grace of the Lord Jesus (3).

B. Remember you are not an institution, you are a living spiritual temple of holy priests the Father is building on the precious and living foundation of His Son, Jesus Christ. Why? Because you believed in Jesus and you will never be put to shame! (4-6).

1. Peter describes the church in glorious expressions of Old Testament terms—a radical and living new community expressing the life of Christ and being built by God (4-5).

2. Peter identifies Jesus Christ as Israel’s rejected cornerstone that blesses all who believe on Him  (6, Isaiah 28:16).

C. Remember that your trust in Christ sets you apart from everyone else—you build your life on the very Person the rest of humanity stumbles over (7-8, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:14).

D. Read your “press release” from heaven: You are a special community—a chosen generation of royal priests, a holy nation, a special people. You have a special calling—to proclaim your praise of the One who called you out of darkness. Why? Because you have obtained mercy! (9-10)

II. When you’re feeling like you can’t go on in this messed up and hurtful world, remember the only place on earth you can find what you need to fulfill your glorious destiny in Christ—His church!

A. Do you hunger for the Word of God the same way a baby cries for his or her milk?

1. If not, could it be that you have not laid aside your disunifying and sinful behaviors in the living temple of the church?

2.   If not, could it be that you’ve forgotten the taste of the grace of God you’ve experienced in the Lord Jesus, that you’ve been sidetracked by a lot of secondary religious or living-life stuff.

3.   If not, could it be that you’ve never tasted the grace of God, that you’ve never trusted in Jesus?

4.  What is one specific step of faith you could take to increase your desire for the nourishment of God’s Word?

B. Do you feel your desperate need to gather with other “living stones” being built on the cornerstone of the Lord Jesus?

1. If not, could it be that you have settled for churchianity rather than radical New Testament community?

2. If not, could it be that your spiritual arrogance or past experiences have convinced you that you don’t need the mess of putting up with other Christians?

3. If not, could it be that you’ve simply never viewed the church in the glorious terms Peter uses?

4.  What is one specific step of faith you could take to increase your awareness of your need for other believers in a community of faith?

C. Do you live with a deep awareness that your faith in Christ sets you apart from all who don’t believe?

1.          If not, could it be that you are a little too cozy with these lifestyles built on rejection of the One who is precious to you?

2.          If not, that you’re a little too comfortable in your “holy huddle” so that you have become insensitive to the pain and destiny of those who are without Christ and without hope?

3.          What is one specific step of faith you could take to separate yourself from the values of this world but not from the victims of these hopeless values?

D. Do you live with a passionate desire to pursue your glorious destiny in Christ with His people?

1.          If not, could it be that your self image is based upon what people say about you and the church rather than what God says about you and the church?

2.          If not, could it be that you have forgotten that the only reason you have any hope is the mercy of the Lord Jesus?

3.          If not, could it be that you have forgotten that the Christian life isn’t about you, that it’s about Christ and others?

4.          What is one specific step of faith you could take to move toward fulfilling your destiny in Christ with His people?

Study Notes Ed Underwood

Privileges and Responsibilities

1 Peter 2:11-12

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lust and conduct yourselves honorably… (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

A summary statement introduces the section on a believer’s responsibilities in the world:

 

Living as a privileged pilgrim in this world:

Avoid selfish sin; live honorably for others!⇦Tweet that!

Every Christian is a privileged pilgrim—living as an alien, temporarily far from home and serving his or her Great King Jesus. Peter’s letter, having established that truth, now urges every Christian to live as if it’s true.

I. Peter presents a simple “battle plan” to his readers for the inevitable conflict between Christians and the pagan society we live in: win the battle against sin and overwhelm them with loving good works           (1 Peter 2:11-12).

A. Dear Friends (beloved—loved by God and by the Apostle Peter), I appeal to you as privileged pilgrims (11a). Peter reminds his readers of their privileged status as God’s special people in this alien and hurtful world.

B. Win the battle against selfish sin (11b).

1. Hold yourself away from, abstain from “fleshly lusts.” Fleshly lusts in this context include the natural appetites that, in excess, result in sin. But more specifically, since Peter is talking about living in an alien and hurtful world, he is emphasizing the natural impulses toward living for survival, comfort, and acceptance in a society or culture or world that you really do not belong to as a temporary resident and alien serving another King (11b).

2. Which war against your soul. The present tense emphasizes that this is an ongoing, everyday battle—a military term speaking of intense warfare. These selfish and fleshly lusts are at war against the soul of believers. This isn’t speaking of some immaterial part of a Christian, but of the whole person, his or her “life.” The idea is that the believer’s ultimate personal good—peace and fulfillment, and significance—while walking on earth as a pilgrim depends on winning the battle against selfish sin (11c).

C. Good works, not aggressive and self-serving behaviors is the way Christians will ultimately triumph over our enemies to the glory of God (12).

1. Again, this is in the present tense—maintain an honorable lifestyle in the midst of pagans (those outside the grace of God) (12a).

2. Overwhelm their slanderous attacks and evil words with good works that will glorify God  (12b).

3. “The day of visitation” is difficult to absolutely identify. This can either be the day they are judged and bow their knee before God (Philippians 2:10-11), a Hebraism speaking of the day that followers of God will rejoice, the day they trust in Christ, or the realization that God has “visited” their lives through the work of Christ in His people (Luke 7:16).

II. When you’re feeling like you can’t go on in this messed up and hurtful world, remember your responsibilities to King Jesus—avoid living selfishly and sinfully, and do good works that overwhelm all who oppose Jesus!

A. What is the “fleshly lust” to live comfortably, indulgently, or popularly in this alien world that most wars against your devotion to the Lord Jesus?

Materialism? Popularity? Fitting In? Priorities? Immorality? Pop-Culture?

B. Do you see the connection between your ultimate personal fulfillment and happiness to your devotion to the Lord Jesus and His priorities in this hurtful and alien world?

C. How do you feel about Peter’s advice to battle this anti-Christ world with kindness and good works rather than aggressive opposition?

Respecting Others

1 Peter 2:13-17

Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the King.

(1 Peter 2:17)

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

Every believer, regardless of political persuasion or the quality of leadership, has responsibilities in society:

Living as a privileged pilgrim in this world:

Honor everyone, especially those in authority!⇦Tweet that!

Every Christian is a privileged pilgrim—living as an alien, temporarily far from home and serving his or her Great King Jesus. Peter’s letter, having established that truth, now urges every Christian to live as if it’s true.

I. Peter’s Radical Teaching About Our Relationship to This World: Honor, respect, and defer to everyone especially those in authority (2:13-3:12). And this begins with governmental authority (2:13-17).

A. How do you honor those in authority over you? By submitting to them, deferring to their authority willingly.

It’s important to keep in mind that the emperor and his appointed governors and civil authorities Peter referred to was wicked Nero, who killed Paul and persecuted Christians. Though Peter doesn’t state it here, the principle behind this radical teaching is that all authority comes from God (Romans 13:1). Christ set us free to live in this world as slaves to God, not to men. But we must not use that freedom as an excuse to cause trouble (cloak for vice in this context) by rebelling against civil authority (v 17).

Note: Jesus told His disciples to submit to civil authority by paying taxes (Matthew 22:21) and His selfless actions in society silenced His enemies (Matthew 22:34). Note: This same Peter believed in exceptional civil disobedience (Acts 4:19-20), but only when the government makes it illegal for Christians to follow God.

B. Why do you honor those in authority by submitting to them? Because they fulfill a God-ordained role on earth and to silence ignorant and foolish spiritual adversaries (15).

1. Civil authorities are God’s agents to punish evildoers and praise those who do good.

Note: This is the divine role of governmental institutions. It’s simply a description, not a qualifier. This doesn’t mean that if government isn’t fulfilling its role according to our judgment that we have the absolute right to resist authority. Remember, Peter is attributing this role to Nero!

Note: As Christians, we have to trust in God’s final justice at the end of the age. The Bible doesn’t present this as a trite hope to explain away pain, but a definite hope in the Just God who will hold evildoers accountable.

2. When Christians are the ones not only submitting to authority, but honoring the government in a way that they also do good works that are recognized in the society, it silence our enemies.

Note: It’s God’s specific will that this is our way of silencing His enemies.

Note: In our fallen world, mercy is rare and injustice often prevails. Submission to authority doesn’t mean the absence of interaction and the denial of our responsibilities to love mercy and do justice as God’s people (Micah 6:8; Matthew 25:34-40; James 1:27). In the context of Peter’s admonition to overpower evil with good works (2:11-12; Cf. Romans 12:21), we should be ready to do good works of tangible expressions of compassion and comfort that ease the pain of the needy, the oppressed, and the stranger. I believe we also have a responsibility to influence civil authority’s systems, structures, and values that result in injustice and unrighteousness. But my take on what the Bible says about this dynamic is that it has more to do with the rights of others and the righteousness of a society than has to do with our personal rights or imposing righteousness on others.

C. Four summary commands link our respect for all others, especially civil authorities, to our respect and love for God and His people (17).

II. When you’re feeling like you can’t go on in this messed up and hurtful world, remember your responsibilities to honor everyone—even unbelievers, the enemies of Christ, and governmental authority!

A. Honor all people. The word honor means to be courteous, respectful, to defer to, have empathy for. It doesn’t mean to bow down, but to treat everyone we meet the way Jesus treated the people He met. In the context of the society and this alien and hurtful world we live in, it’s our Father’s will that we do this and even extend kindness by doing good works in the communities, our neighborhoods, families, workplaces, and campuses. This is an effective way to silence those who attack us as followers of Christ.

What type of people in this world or in your world of communities do you struggle with your God-given responsibility to honor.

B. Love the brotherhood. Peter will have more to say about this. The significance here is that, in the same way we should love our fellow Christians, we should honor everyone. The two are linked as responsibilities from God. Fear God. The significance here is that, in the same way we should fearfully respect our God, we should honor civil authority. The two are linked as responsibilities from God.

C. Honor the king. The word honor means to be courteous, respectful, to defer to, have empathy for. But when it comes to civil authority, it means to submit. It doesn’t mean to bow down, but to respect civil authority in the same way Jesus did. God doesn’t tell us to feel respect for authority, but to show respect for authority. Are you able to separate this in your mind? Left, right, or in the middle, you have a responsibility from God to respect civil authority. How do you feel about that when your “party” is out of power?

Do you have a firm line in your mind of when and how you should “speak up” or “show up” to respectfully influence civil authority as a Christian? Does it have more to do with your rights and imposed righteousness, or others’ rights and cultural righteousness?

Remember: The most trusted message is the least prepared message!

Your life as a follower of Christ will either support or detract from

what you say about the Lord Jesus.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Respect In the Workplace:

Response to Abusive Authority

1 Peter 2:18-25

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example,

that you should follow His steps (1 Peter 2:21).

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

Every believer, regardless of station in life, is responsible to respond to authority the same way Jesus did—even when it hurts:

Living as a privileged pilgrim in this world:

Called to suffer unjustly while living for others

and trusting in our Good Shepherd!

Every Christian is a privileged pilgrim—living as an alien, temporarily far from home and serving his or her Great King Jesus.⇦Tweet that! Peter’s letter, having established that truth, now urges every Christian to live as if it’s true.

I. Peter’s Radical Teaching About Our Relationship to Abusive Authority: Submit to authority—whether good or evil—following your Good Shepherd, whose selfless and intentional suffering brought you salvation  (2:18-25).

A. Demonstrate your fear of God (with all fear; fear God, v 17) by submitting to even abusive authority (18).

Note: This is Peter’s soft introduction to one of the primary themes of his letter: Devoted followers of Christ will suffer for Him. He withheld his description of abusive authority when speaking of the state to protect his readers from harsher persecution from Rome. But there’s no question that his emphasis on the Christian response to abusive masters applies to all authority.

Note: Peter is not affirming slavery; he’s simply speaking into the realities of the lives of his readers. It’s interesting that he didn’t feel the need to address masters. First Century Christians weren’t the masters and officers but the slaves and soldiers. The downtrodden and hopeless have always been the first to embrace the hope of Christ’s grace and mercy.

B. Three reasons why you honor God by submitting to even abusive authority (19-25):

1. When we allow God’s Spirit to control our response toward authority by enduring grief and suffering wrongly, it “graces” God—He takes notice, it blesses Him, it counts with Him (19).

2. When we suffer unjustly and gain a reputation as people who do good in spite of oppression and persecution, it “graces” God—He takes notice, it blesses Him, it counts with Him (20).

3. We were called to follow Christ’s example as His devoted disciples. Christ entrusted Himself to the Father and suffered unjustly on the Cross to rescue us. We should entrust ourselves to the Good Shepherd and suffer unjustly to rescue others (21-25).

a. In the same way we were called out of darkness (2:9) and to share in Christ’s eternal glory (5:10), we are called to suffer for Christ as privileged pilgrims in this alien and hurtful world (21a).

b. This is one of the clearest calls to discipleship in the New Testament: “Called to follow in the footsteps of the suffering Christ” (21b).

c. Christ’s unjust suffering is quoted from the ultimate passage on the Suffering Servant, Isaiah 53. As the sinless Savior, He refused to retaliate, threaten, or revile in response to His unjust antagonist (22-25).

d. Christ’s quiet confidence was in the perfect justice of His Father who judges righteously    (22-23, c.f. Romans 12:19-20).

e. Christ’s violent and unjust death on the cross enables us to die to ourselves and live for righteous suffering knowing that we entrust ourselves to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (24-25).

II. If you’re going to live for others in this alien and hurtful world, expect to suffer unjustly, and prepare to respond to the injustice in the same way Christ did!

A. Why do you feel most Christians never consider the fact that we have been called to suffer for Christ, even when it isn’t fair?

B. Where in your life are you struggling with the “fairness” factor our society values above all else

C. What would you like to tell Jesus about His desire that you follow in His footsteps of submitting to the authority of Rome, even though He had done nothing wrong?

Respect in the Home

1 Peter 3:1-7

…that they may be won by your conduct…that your prayers be not hindered.

(Purpose statement to wives and husbands)

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

Every believer, regardless of station in life, is responsible to respond to authority the same way Jesus did—even when it hurts. And especially in the home where both husband and wife give up their “rights” for the sake of the Gospel and entrusting themselves to the Father:

Respect and honor maximize the spiritual impact of a marriage!⇦Tweet that!

Every Christian is a privileged pilgrim—living as an alien, temporarily far from home and serving his or her Great King Jesus. Peter’s letter, having established that truth, now urges every Christian to live as if it’s true.

I. Peter’s Radical Teaching To Husbands and Wives: Instead of thinking about yourself, think about the spiritual impact of your marriage (3:1-7).

Note: The emphasis of Peter’s teaching on marriage in this context is how it intersects with this pagan world and how both husband and wife can maximize the spiritual impact of any marriage. “Likewise,” or “In the same way…” introduces the commands to both wives and husbands and looks back to Christ’s deference to authority even when it was unfair because He entrusted Himself to the Father’s will and purposes (2:21-25).

Note: These are radical words! In the society Peter is writing to, women had no rights and were expected to embrace the religion of their husbands. The Roman author Cato wrote, “If you were to catch your wife in an act of infidelity, you can kill her with impunity without a trial; but, if she were to catch you, she would not venture to touch you with a finger, and, indeed, she has no right.” (Cited by William Barkley, The Letters of James and Peter, p. 264)

A. To the Wife: Your quiet and gentle submission to even your unsaved husband is precious to God and the best way to win him to Christ (1-6).

1. The first command to quietly and gently submit to your unsaved husband is explicitly to win them to the Lord Jesus.

2. The second command to focus on the inner beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit rather than outward beauty is explicitly to do something that is precious to God.

Note: These are the things termed “precious” in Peter’s writings: the precious blood of Christ (1:19); Jesus, the living Stone, chosen by God and precious (2:4), Jesus Christ, precious to those who believe (2:7), the great and precious promises of God given to believers (2 Peter 1:4)…AND, the quiet and gentle spirit of a woman who submits to her husband for the grand purposes of God and entrusting herself to Him (3:4)!

3. The reason offered to wives is the example of holy women of God who listened to their husbands, submitted, and became a part of all their marriage meant to the work of God on earth. Sarah is the specific example who trusted God enough to do something that would bring terror to most women’s heart—leave your home and follow your husband to a “place God will show me.” In a very real way, 1 Peter says that there may have been no nation of Israel if not for Sarah’s trust of God in this way!

B. To the Husband: Your understanding of your wife, refusal to intimidate her physically, and honoring her as an absolutely essential partner in all that God called you to is the key to the power of your prayers  (7).

1. The command to live with your wife in an understanding and sensitive manner is explicitly to maximize your prayer life.

2. Remembering that the woman is (generally) physically weaker is a clear warning against physical abuse or intimidation.

3. Husbands who fail to recognize the impossibility of realizing their destiny in Christ without their wives will find that their prayer life is full of obstacles.

II. If you’re going to live for others in this alien and hurtful world, begin at home by remembering that your marriage should have spiritual impact in this world!

A. Practical Implications For a Happier Marriage:

1. Submission is for every Christian, but especially for wives in the marriage relationship, and involves four things, according to 1 Peter:

An attitude of entrusting yourself to God (2:23-25)

Requiring respectful behavior (3:1-2)

Involving the development of godly character (3:3-5)

Including doing what is right (3:6)

2. Honor is for every Christian, but especially for husbands in the marriage relationship, and involves four things, according to 1 Peter 3:7:

Active listening

Thorough study of temperament, personality, and thought patterns

Understanding of the other person rather than demanding to be understood

Knowledge of God’s will concerning the treatment of the other person

B. But for every Christian, honor and submission have much more to do with trusting God than they have to do with personal gain, insights, or discipline.

Bless Your “Enemies”

1 Peter 3:8-12

Not returning evil for evil, but on the contrary blessing,

knowing that you were called to this

that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

The Apostle ends this section on the Christian’s relational responsibilities (2:13-3:12) the same way he began—show respect for everyone. But his revolutionary definition of respect when relating to those who oppose us is so radically Christlike that he appeals to King David’s writings for support:

Respect your “enemies” by blessing  them! ⇦Tweet that!

Every Christian is a privileged pilgrim—living as an alien, temporarily far from home and serving his or her Great King Jesus. Peter’s letter, having established that truth, now urges every Christian to live as if it’s true—especially in the community of faith.

I. Peter’s Radical Teaching to the Church: Bless Your “Enemies” (3:8-12). Christians should respect their enemies—especially those within the church—by blessing them for the sake of unity, empathetically, lovingly, compassionately, and humbly. Bless them in this way rather than retaliating because this is your calling, to receive your inheritance, and since this is what King David taught as the path to receiving God’s blessing.

Note: The emphasis of Peter’s teaching in this section is how believers relate to this alien and hurtful world. It’s no mistake that he speaks to the church by telling us to bless our enemies who are brothers. The Bible everywhere declares and church history affirms that when Christians fight, it diminishes our impact on this alien and hurtful world; when Christians give up their rights and bless their enemies within and without the church, our impact on this alien and hurtful world increases. Though fellow-Christians are not our enemies, it sometimes seems as if believers who oppose us, abuse us, and hurt us are our enemies.

Note: Keep in mind that the example of Christ blessing His enemies (us, Romans 5:10) anchors all of these radical relational commands (2:21-25).

A. The radical definition of respecting your “enemies”: Don’t retaliate; bless them (8-9a).

1. Peter employs radical relational words found nowhere else in the New Testament to tell us how to bless one another: for the sake of unity (like-minded, that internal attitude that makes division unthinkable), empathetically (suffering with another by entering into his or her feelings), lovingly (philadelphos, brotherly love), compassionately (literally “good-hearted” or tenderhearted), and humbly (literally humble of mind, some translate this courteous).

2. Peter tells us exactly what we should not do: retaliate by returning evil for evil, reviling for reviling, insult for insult (9a).

3. The word for blessing is eulogeo—to speak well. The central issue in this blessing is what we say about our “enemies”. The retaliation most in mind here is to defend, exonerate, or politic against our “enemies” by making sure everyone understands why we, the victim, are justified or right.

B. Peter offers three reasons why Christians should bless their enemies rather than retaliate: this is our calling, to secure our inheritance, and King David’s teaching on the “good life” (9b-12).

1. In the same way we were called out of darkness (2:9) and to share in Christ’s eternal glory (5:10), and to suffer for Christ as privileged pilgrims in this alien and hurtful world (21a), we are called to bless those who oppose, abuse, and hurt us within the body of Christ (9b).

2. A word play on blessing clearly identifies the second motivation as receiving the reward of our inheritance. To bless is to “speak well,” and every devoted disciple longs for Jesus to speak well of him or her at His Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10) where His good and faithful servants who endure in good works, specifically here—the good work of blessing their “enemies”—will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:11-13, Hebrews 12:1-17, 9c).

3. The third motivation comes from Psalm 34:12-16. King David clearly said that God is good to those who trust Him enough to seek peace with their “enemies” rather than speaking treacherously of them (10-12).

II. If you’re going to live for others in this alien and hurtful world, don’t overlook your Christian brothers and sisters—even your enemies. Stop retaliating and start blessing them!

A. Why do you feel Christians through the centuries have disregarded this teaching to speak unifying, loving and compassionate words toward one another rather than retaliating with defensive, exonerating, aggressive, and attacking words toward their “enemies” in the church?

1. Insights from this passage:

We may have never heard that this is our very specific calling.

We may have never heard that we will not hear “well done” and receive our inheritance from the Lord Jesus if we retaliate against our “enemies” in the church.

We may be defining the “good life” in the wrong way as “getting our way” or “defending our honor” rather than giving way to others and defending the honor of Christ.

2. Insights from personal experiences in churches:

A culture where being right is more important than being kind and loving

A culture where threatened, controlling, mean and immature Christians are esteemed for some dysfunctional reason

A culture and leaders afraid to confront sins of the tongue and divisive ways

B. What have you learned today?

About the way you related to former “enemies” in the church?

About the way Christians behaved in church fights or splits you have seen or been a part of?

About the way you’re treating your Christian “enemies” right now?

Even If You Really “Lose”

1 Peter 3:13-17

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed (1 Peter 3:14).

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

The Christian’s general relational responsibilities are to honor and respect everyone, especially those who oppose us and hurt us (2:11-3:12). “But,” you may protest, “what if respecting them just makes it worse? What then?” The Apostle’s answer to that is simple: Suffering for the sake of Christ is not a problem; it’s the highest privilege!

If following Christ causes your suffering, God will take care of you!⇦Tweet that!

It’s easy to construct fearful images of what the “other side” is going to do to us if they “win” the sanctified retaliation wars Peter told us not to fight in 3:8-12. In the next paragraph the seasoned church leader tells us that our fears are probably exaggerated. But even if all that we fear comes true and the other “side” wins and we lose, it’s better to follow Christ and suffer for it than it is to take control of the situation and “win”.

I. Peter’s comforting words to those who bless their “enemies” (3:8-12): Even if you “lose” the retaliation war and the other side hurts you, it’s better to trust in your Loving God than it is to fight back.

Note: The emphasis of Peter’s teaching in this section is how believers relate to this alien and hurtful world. It’s no mistake that he speaks to the church by telling us to bless our enemies who are brothers. The Bible everywhere declares and church history affirms that when Christians fight, it diminishes our impact on this alien and hurtful world; when Christians give up their rights and bless their enemies within and without the church, our impact on this alien and hurtful world increases. Though fellow-Christians are not our enemies, it sometimes seems as if believers who oppose us, abuse us, and hurt us are our enemies.

Note: Keep in mind that the example of Christ blessing His enemies (us, Romans 5:10) anchors all of these radical relational commands (2:21-25).

Note: The grammar of this paragraph emphasizes the fact that most of what we fear when we obey Christ’s command to love those who hurt us, and refrain from retaliating will never happen!

A. The Promise: Who can really harm those who are zealous of Christ’s kind and gentle ways? Even if your obedience to Christ results in suffering, you’re still blessed (living the best life on earth—the following-Jesus life, 13-14a).

B. The Advice: Instead of worrying about what others are going to do or how to retaliate, fill your life with Christ the Lord and think about how you explain your selfless behavior based upon your hope in Him (14b-15).

1. Though verse 15 is often used to motivate Christians to prepare their gospel presentation, its meaning in context is far broader. It is telling us that we need to be ready to explain our selfless behaviors as we relate to this alien and hurtful world by our relationship with Christ rather than our own strength.

2. The connection between our willingness to suffer rather than retaliate in hurtful relational situations to our effective testimony of Christ should cause every believer to count the cost of relational retaliation.

C. The Eventual Outcome: Someday those who attack you unfairly will be ashamed and you will know that it was better to suffer in obedience to Christ than it would be to retaliate (Judgment Seat of Christ for Christians, vv 16-17, see also, 1 John 2:28).

II. If you’re going to live for others in this alien and hurtful world, don’t fear your adversaries as much as you long to follow Christ. God will take care of you!

A. There’s something in your life right now that Jesus wants you to do that brings fear to your heart—a sin to disclose, a disagreement to drop, a friend you’ve hurt you that need to ask for forgiveness, a situation that you know God is asking you to trust Him with.

1. This passage says that most of the time what you fear will never happen! Does that help you trust Christ and follow Him rather than taking control?

2. This passage says that even if your worst-case scenario comes true, it’s better to follow Jesus than it is to take care of yourself. Does that help you trust Christ and follow Him rather than taking control?

B. If you do trust Him enough to do what He says, be sure you’re preparing to give Him the credit! If someone asks you why you’re so kind, so forgiving, so willing to “lose”, so other-centered, be sure to tell them why: Jesus is in your life and your hope is in Him.

Two Old Testament passages help us to remember the balance between last week’s exhortation not to retaliate in anger but to bless instead (1 Peter 3:8-12), and this week’s exhortation not to retreat from blessing in fear of what they may do to us (1 Peter 3:13-17):

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you (Proverbs 25:21-22).

Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD (Jeremiah 1:8).

Even If You Really Suffer?

1 Peter 3:17-22

For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

(1 Peter 3:17)

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

In 3:18ff Peter demonstrates how Christ’s response to unjustified suffering led to His ultimate triumph.

If following Christ causes your suffering, God will vindicate you!⇦Tweet that!

This is a section of 1 Peter designed to strengthen our resolve to follow Christ even when He asks us to suffer unjustly in His name.

I. Peter’s defense of his teaching that it’s better to suffer following Christ by not retaliating than it is to suffer for the “evil” of retaliating against those who hurt you (1 Peter 3:17): Christ’s suffering brought our salvation; Christ’s physical suffering brought spiritual triumph, and Christ ultimately delivers His followers (1 Peter 3:18-22).

A. Christ brought us into relationship with God by suffering unjustly for the unjust (18a).

1. This is a concise statement of the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross. He died for our sins (2:21, 24); it was a once for all sacrifice (no need for any more work or sacrifice, Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:26, 28; 10:10); it was substitutionary—the just died for the unjust, and it brings believers to God.

2. “Also” adds to the ministry of Christ noted in 1 Peter: His passion (2:22-24), death (2:24a), present ministry as the Guardian and Shepherd of His people (2:24b). These verses connect His resurrection and ascension to the suffering of His followers.

B. Like Christ, we may suffer physically, but we will triumph spiritually (18b-20).

1. …being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, This is not dividing the Person of Christ between His “flesh,” or material part and His “spirit” or immaterial part. This is simply saying that Jesus died physically on the cross, but He was made alive (resurrected), by God.

2. …by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,

a. “By whom”, or “in which” may refer to the Holy Spirit “by whom He preached”, or it could be causal, “because of [His resurrection]”, or temporal “on which occasion [His resurrection]. Whatever the “preaching” is, I believe it is being done by Christ after His resurrection (v 18) and before His ascension (v 22).

b. “Preached” doesn’t always mean, “preach the gospel”. The Greek term simply means to proclaim a truth. There is nothing here to indicate that contrary to the rest of the Bible, Jesus gave these spirits “another chance.” This is about the vindication of His suffering for the unjust—His victory is being proclaimed as proof that His suffering counted in the exact way He planned.

c. “Spirits in prison” is extremely difficult. What we know is that these are the “spirits” who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared. We can say clearly that these “spirits” are those who either disobeyed God’s message to trust in the ark as the only way to avoid the judgment of the flood, or they were the evil spirits that energized that rebellion. I believe this is one dramatic example of the “angels and authorities and powers made subject to Him after His resurrection and ascension” (v 22).

3. I believe that the resurrected Christ proclaimed His victory over death and sin to principalities and powers, including those who had resisted His messages through the centuries. The specific example here is the generation of Noah who resisted His offer of deliverance from the judgment of the flood for 120 years. Noah’s little band of believers—eight souls—was vindicated when their faith in God delivered them from the flood. And now, Jesus Himself (2nd Person of the Godhead) is vindicated.

C. As Noah was vindicated when His faith in God’s message of deliverance—get in the ark—delivered him from the flood, so we will be vindicated when our faith in God’s message of deliverance—believe in Jesus—delivers us from the penalty of sin. And when true believers are baptized, they are publicly trusting in this future deliverance as Noah had, in spite of persecution, opposition, and suffering (21-22).

Note: Baptism doesn’t save from sin. Peter is careful and adamant to point out that baptism only washes away filth from the outer skin. What baptism “saves” or delivers us from is a bad conscience—the refusal to follow Christ and identify with Him that we will regret at His judgment seat. Baptism is a “pledge” (NASB) of a good conscience toward God.

II. If you’re going to live for others in this alien and hurtful world, don’t fear your adversaries as much as you long to follow Christ. God will vindicate you!

A. How do you struggle with the idea of “ultimate vindication” in Christ? When you feel tempted to retaliate and to make sure everyone knows “your side” of relational strife, is it enough to know that “someday Jesus will vindicate the righteous”?

B. How are you tempted to vindicate yourself now, before Jesus has a chance?

C. In most cultures of history, identifying with Christ through baptism has opened the door to persecution. How does this help you appreciate the significance of baptism to the heart of Christ? How does this change your appreciation of baptism to a community of believers?

Suffering and Sinning

1 Peter 4:1-6

For it is better, if it is the will of God, suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:17)

Peter’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

After reminding his readers that Christ’s physical suffering led to spiritual triumph, Peter challenges them to follow His example rather than returning to their former lifestyle, the lifestyle of those who will die in their sin:

Persevere in suffering because you’ve been set from sin

 and look forward to living with God!⇦Tweet that!

This is a section of 1 Peter designed to strengthen our resolve to follow Christ even when He asks us to suffer unjustly in His name.

I. Peter’s defends his teaching that it’s better to suffer—following Christ—by not retaliating than it is to suffer for the “evil” of retaliating against those who hurt you (1 Peter 3:17). Christ’s suffering brought our salvation. Christ’s physical suffering brought spiritual triumph. And Christ ultimately delivers His followers (3:18-22) Finally, when you suffer for doing good (and don’t retaliate), you choose to identify with Christ rather than your pagan past (4:1-6)

A. Command: Arm yourself with Christ’s view toward physical suffering because you have been set free from the power of sin and can now live for God (1-2, Cf. Romans 6:14-23).

1. Therefore introduces the main lesson from 3:18-22: “When we, in Christ’s power, suffer for doing what is right, we recognize that our bondage to sin has been broken and that sin no longer is master over us” (Bob Deffenbaugh, bible.org).

2. It’s to our great advantage that God’s grace in Christ liberated us so that we can now live to do the will of God.

B. Explanation: Suffering for doing good is actually evidence of God’s grace in our lives. Suffering with the selfless attitude of Jesus was foreign to your former lifestyle and unsettling to the non-Christians who will attack you for living righteously (3-4)

1. Instead of doing the will of God, you used to do the will of the Gentiles—pursuing a debauched lifestyle (3).

2. But now you don’t. In fact, those who still embrace that lifestyle actually defame you for doing the good that causes your suffering (4).

C. Reminder: Those who die opposing you and refusing to trust in Jesus will stand before Him as their Judge. This is why the good news is so precious to all who die in Christ—they will live with God  (5-6).

1. For unbelievers, physical death leads to judgment and eternal separation from God in a place called hell (5).

Note: This verse doesn’t say that the “gospel” is being preached to the dead after they died. It simply says that it was preached to those who have died. I believe Peter is referring specifically to those who are persecuting these Christians for doing the good of forsaking their pagan lifestyle and not retaliating.

2. For believers, physical death leads to eternal intimacy with God in a place called heaven (6).

II. Persevere in suffering for doing good! It’s what Christ did: It’s what He set you free to do, and you’re living for the world to come anyway!

A. Some suffering is a consequence of sin and unbelief, but a lot of the suffering of devoted followers of Christ is a sign of spiritual maturity.

B. One of the best ways to steel your soul against sin is to persevere in suffering for doing good.

C. Before you get too upset with non-Christians who persecute you and revile you for doing good, think about their eternal destiny.

Suffering and Community

1 Peter 4:7-11

But the end of all things is at hand (1 Peter 4:7).

Following his introduction, Peter encourages his readers by reminding them of who they are as the people of God in 1:3-2:10. Believers have received a precious salvation (1:3-12); believers have received a revolutionary new way of life (1:13-25), and believers have received a new community—a chosen priesthood (2:1-10).

The Apostle’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

Peter closes his discussion of suffering by connecting the priorities of community to the soon return of Jesus Christ:

Time is short: Pray fervently and love well!⇦Tweet that!

This is a section of 1 Peter designed to strengthen our resolve to follow Christ even when He asks us to suffer unjustly in His name. It ends with a reminder that we shouldn’t suffer alone. We need our community of faith!

I. Peter transitions to his discussion of relating to one another in this alien and hurtful world by introducing the importance of banding together since Jesus is coming soon and emphasizing the need to pray with focus and determination and to love one another through forgiveness, hospitality, and stewardship of gifts (1 Peter 4:7-11).

A. Reminder: Time is short! (7a; Cf. James 5:8; Romans 13:11)

1. The First Century church believed the return of the Lord Jesus was imminent (could occur at any moment). Peter wanted his readers to know the implications of prophecy in the face of suffering. Jesus is coming soon, so make the most of your time here on earth. Even, or especially when life is tough.

2. You may say, “But Jesus hasn’t come yet, why should I be concerned about the shortness of time?” Two answers: (1) His return for His church is still imminent (1 Thessalonians 5:6).         (2) Even if Jesus doesn’t come during your lifetime, your days on earth are limited.

B. Commands: In light of the shortness of the time you will have to persevere during suffering, pray strenuously and love earnestly (7b-11).

1. “Therefore” connects our need for a healthy community to both the coming of Jesus and the suffering of His people until then.

2. Pray fervently (7b). When suffering comes, your prayers need to be even more focused and persistent. This requires prayers being processed through the communities within the church—small groups, local assemblies, even geographical or national areas.

3. Love strenuously (8-11a). When suffering comes, your love for one another needs to be even more selfless and empowered by God. The word translated “fervent” means “intense” or “strenuous.” It is the word used to describe a horse at full gallop or an athlete straining every muscle toward the tape at the finish line of a race. Three marks of strenuous love:

a. Strenuous love forgives those who have sinned against us (8). The phrase “love will cover a multitude of sins” doesn’t mean that if we love someone their sin doesn’t matter. What it means is that we need to forgive those who have hurt us so that we no longer count that sin against them. Our love “covers” that sin.

b. Strenuous love is selflessly hospitable (9a). Opening our home to “strangers” is especially welcome and dangerous during times of persecution. It’s important that we do this without “grumbling.” This clarification exposes how really difficult true hospitality in the name of Christ really is.

c. Strenuous love stewards grace selflessly (10-11a). This is a call to love one another by using our spiritual gifts (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4). God gave spiritual gifts to be used in the body of Christ. We should use them as stewards—slaves managing the Master’s resources according to their Master’s will and direction.

(1)    Communication gifts should communicate the Word of God, not personal opinions.

(2)    Service gifts should remember that God made the service possible.

(3) The reason these gifts should be from God’s Word and His blessings is so that He, the author of the gifts, gets the glory.

C. Benediction: The “amen” signals that Peter is wrapping up the section that began in 2:11. There will be another benediction at the end of the book in 5:11 (11b).

II. Persevere in suffering for doing good! It won’t last forever, but gather in groups that pray hard and love well!

A. Prophecy isn’t a popular subject today, but you need the hope of Jesus’ coming and the reminder that the pain of this world is temporary. When does prophecy and the hope of Jesus’ soon coming mean the most to you?

B. Do you see the connection between the tough times of life and your need for community? How many faith communities (small and large) are you a part of to encourage and strengthen you during the hard times of life?

C. Are you engaged in the prayers of these communities? Are your prayers focused and persistent?

D. How would you grade your love for those in your communities?

1. What is your “forgiveness” grade?

2. What is your “hospitality without grumbling” grade?

3. What is your “steward of my spiritual gifts” grade?

What do you think the Lord wants you to do to improve your grade? Be specific!

Suffering and Glory

1 Peter 4:12-19

Let those who suffer according to the will of God

commit their souls to Him in doing good,as to a faithful Creator.

(1 Peter 4:19)

The Apostle’s wondrous teaching on our privileges as believers is the basis for his radical call to live as God’s people in the world and in the church in 2:11-5:11. The repetition of the phrase, “Beloved, I beg you…in 2:11 and 4:12/5:1 marks the division between our responsibilities in relationship to this world and our responsibilities in relationship to the church.

Peter begins his discussion of our responsibilities in relationship to the church in the same way he ended the discussion of our responsibilities in relationship to this world: How it all works during times of suffering. He repeats some of the themes of the prior section, but with more emphasis on those within the community—the church. He encourages the struggling readers facing daunting persecution by offering God’s perspective on suffering:

 

Life is tough, but time is short: Rejoice in suffering for Jesus,

but don’t retaliate sinfully.⇦Tweet that!

Entrust your life to your Faithful Creator!

Though the rest of the book of 1 Peter applies to all believers, it’s especially relevant to those who are exercising spiritual leadership. Usually the leaders are the first to feel the pain of persecution and the most willing to suffer for the Lord Jesus!

I. Peter connects a believer’s suffering for Christ to the glory of God and warns suffering Christians to avoid sin as they entrust their lives to their Faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:12-19).

A. “Beloved” marks the third and final teaching section of 1 Peter (Cf. 2:11) and orients the discussion to relationships within the Body of Christ. Note: The benediction of 4:11 announces the close of the last section.

B. Stop being resentfully astonished that you actually need to suffer on earth, but start rejoicing because you are privileged by Christ to be a part of His special fellowship of suffering. Remember, when you are reviled for following Christ, the Spirit gives you the power to rest in spite of the lies of Christ’s enemies. Why? Because you know that God will bring glory from this bad thing! (12-14)

1. The fiery trial speaks of the purifying or refining power of suffering in the life of a believer. For Peter and his readers, it was also a reality. Nero blamed Christians for burning Rome. The evil emperor retaliated by rounding up Christian leaders, covering them with pitch, and using them as living torches to light the imperial gardens at night.

2. Just like Jesus, we can rejoice with exceeding joy (to be exuberantly happy) (Matthew 5:11-12).  We can do this because of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). This is a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit (present tense of verb meaning to give rest or refresh) “always giving rest” or “constantly refreshing” during times of purifying judgments and persecutions. This explains the martyrs of the church rejoicing and singing during times of imprisonment, torture, and execution.

C. Don’t use suffering as an excuse to sin against those who persecute you. If you suffer for sins you committed trying to retaliate against those who hurt you, that’s an entirely different matter and doesn’t glorify God at all (15).

D. Don’t be ashamed of suffering for Jesus, but glorify God. This is part of the process of God’s judgment of the world and His church. God’s mighty grace will take care of you, but not the enemies of Christ. So, when your suffering is the will of God to grow and purify you, entrust your life to your Faithful Creator (16-19).

1. Don’t be ashamed, glorify God in your suffering for being a Christian (16).

2. Three reasons we should not be ashamed but glorify God in suffering for following Christ       (17-19):

a. The Purpose of This Suffering: To purify and strengthen His people. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God…. I believe this is telling us that the persecution of believers is the beginning of the last phase of God’s redemptive plan. Before we get too upset over your hardships and disappointments, think about your suffering from God’s perspective. God views this as His purifying and strengthening judgment (not punishment) of His people. (17a).

b. The Contrast of Our Status Before Our God: And if it begins with us first…. God knows that unbelievers who persecute His people cannot escape His wrath. If the righteous one is scarcely saved…. The word translated scarcely does not imply doubt about the salvation of Christians. It can also be translated “with great difficulty” and it is emphasizing the great effort God put forth to deliver Christians from their sin. It also contrasts that with the absolute hopelessness of those who reject God’s great effort in sending His Son to die for our sin   (17b-18).

c. The Faithfulness of the One Guiding the Suffering: Therefore (strong conclusion) keep on entrusting your life (soul means the totality of our being—physical and spiritual) to your Faithful Creator (only here) (19).

II. Don’t resent suffering as something that shouldn’t happen to you. It’s part of following Jesus, but it never means that God is surprised or has lost control of this world!

A. Do you really want to be a spiritual leader? Count the cost before you seek the status! This is leading up to the discussion of submitting to spiritual authority.

B. How do you really feel when someone says, “You should rejoice in this suffering”? What in this paragraph would help you find joy in even the most difficult circumstances?

C. What does taking the pain of suffering into your own hands lead to? How can you avoid the sin of retaliating against those who hurt you?”

D. If there were no Holy Spirit, would it make any difference in the way you approach and respond to times of suffering, hardship, unfair persecution, and adversity?

E. Would your Christian friends say that you’re the type of Christian who always seems amazed and resentful that tough times come your way? Or would they say that even though your honest about your pain, you are looking for the glory of God as you trust in your Faithful Creator?

Shepherd the Flock

1 Peter 5:1-4

To the elders who are among you I exhort…shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-2).

Peter begins his discussion of our responsibilities in relationship to the church by telling Christians to entrust their lives to their Faithful Creator, especially during times of suffering. Having already reminded believers of their critical resource during tough times—the church, Peter now exhorts the members of the assembly to build the type of church hurting believers need in 5:1-11. Hurting believers need a healthy flock as they follow their Good Shepherd. They need leaders who shepherd well (1-4), and followers who humbly respect their leaders as they cast their cares on God (5-7). And they need a faith community where neither the shepherds nor the flock underestimate the power of the devil or the power of God’s grace (8-11).

As a fellow elder, the apostle knows that the health of the shepherds determines the health of the flock. His seasoned advice expands on the risen Lord’s command to him on the shores of Galilee—“If you love Me, tend my sheep and follow Me in spite of suffering” (John 21:15-19).

Suffering Christians need a healthy flock!⇦Tweet that!

Healthy leaders shepherd the flock—willingly, enthusiastically, and by example.⇦Tweet that!

The epistle teaching Christians how to persevere in this alien and hurtful world closes with paragraphs all about the local body of Christians—the church. It’s a vital link. Christians need a healthy local church!

I. Peter exhorts leaders to shepherd the flock—willingly, enthusiastically, and by example—because Jesus will reward faithful undershepherds when He comes (1 Peter 5:1-4).

A. Textual Context: In light of inevitable suffering, believers should entrust their lives to their Faithful Creator (4:12-19). The first priority in trusting God in this way is to be a part of a healthy faith community—a flock of the Good Shepherd (5:1-7).

B. Historical Context: The Apostle Peter speaks to leaders as a fellow elder who has personally experienced the sufferings of spiritual leaders and looks forward to his share in the Lord’s glory because of his faithfulness as a leader (1).

C. Command to Leaders. Peter passes on the risen Lord’s personal command to him as a leader: Shepherd the flock of God (2a, Cf. John 21:15-21).

1. Shepherd, literally means to tend. The pictures that come to mind are intentional. Selfless shepherds sacrificially and selflessly tending their sheep—feeding, leading, guiding, protecting, disciplining, and providing for their every need.

2. the flock of God, reminds every leader that the sheep of the fold and the fold itself belong to God, not them. They are not the focus but the servants, not the owners but the stewards. It’s not about them; it’s about the sheep and the Lord Jesus.

D. Advice to Leaders: Oversee the Lord’s sheep faithfully—willingly, enthusiastically, and by example (2b-3).

Unfaithful vs. Faithful Shepherds: Contrasts

NOT BUT
By compulsion—not due to external pressure Willingly—due to internal guidance of the Spirit
For dishonest gain—not for personal honor

or for the money

Eagerly—extremely strong word

enthusiastically and with devoted zeal

As being lords—not domineering, controlling,

or manipulative and self-serving

By example—what they see more

than what you say

E. Motivation for Leaders: Faithful undershepherds will share in Christ’s glory and receive an unfading crown when He appears (4).

1. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, focuses the leaders’ attention on the coming of the Lord Jesus when He will hand out rewards and share His glory with faithful saints. It also reminds every leader that we are undershepherds serving the Chief Shepherd, the Alpha and the Omega  (v 4a, Cf. Revelation 22:12-13).

2. you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. There is a special reward for faithful leaders who persevere in shepherding the flock through the pressures and persecutions of spiritual leadership in the church. I believe this is one of the special “wreath-crowns” the Lord Jesus will bestow on faithful stewards at His Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10).

II. Faithful Christians need a healthy church, led by faithful undershepherds!

A. Commitment to a local church is a good thing, unless the leaders are tyrants! When a church is all about the leaders, something’s terribly wrong and hurting Christians will not find what they need.

B. New Testament church leaders are not primarily administrators, visionaries, chief executives, preachers, teachers, apologists, (fill in with any word that isn’t shepherd). The leaders of local churches serve their Chief Shepherd as undershepherds!

C. Are you a leader? How would the Lord Jesus and your close friends evaluate your “shepherdship” according to this passage?

D. Are you a discouraged leader? Think of the joy when you stand before the Lord Jesus as His faithful undershepherd.

Humble Yourselves

1 Peter 5:5-7

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,

that He may exalt you in due time.

(1 Peter 5:6)

Peter begins his discussion of our responsibilities in relationship to the church by telling Christians to entrust their lives to their Faithful Creator, especially during times of suffering. Having already reminded believers of their critical resource during tough times—the church, Peter now exhorts the members of the assembly to build the type of church hurting believers need in 5:1-11. Hurting believers need a healthy flock as they follow their Good Shepherd. They need leaders who shepherd well (1-4), and followers who humbly respect their leaders as they cast their cares on God (5-7). And they need a faith community where neither the shepherds nor the flock underestimate the power of the devil or the power of God’s grace (8-11).

The same Peter who learned his lesson on servanthood when the Lord Jesus insisted on washing his feet (John 13) exhorts Christians to put on their servant clothes, and humbly submit to spiritual authority and one another:

Suffering Christians need a healthy flock!

Humbly submitting to leaders and one another, confident in God’s care.⇦Tweet that!

The epistle teaching Christians how to persevere in this alien and hurtful world closes with paragraphs all about the local body of Christians—the church. It’s a vital link. Christians need a healthy local church!

I. Peter exhorts members to submit to spiritual authority and one another—humbly trusting God to exalt and care for them personally as they do. (1 Peter 5:5-7)

A. Textual Context: In light of inevitable suffering, believers should entrust their lives to their Faithful Creator (4:12-19). The first priority in trusting God in this way is to be a part of a healthy faith community—a flock of the Good Shepherd (5:1-11).

B. Command to Members: Submit to your elders and one another as you serve with humility (5a).

1. Younger people/elders. I believe this is telling the members of the church to submit to the elders. Peter chooses the term, younger people, because typically the elders are older in age and more mature in life and the faith.

2. Submit. Though the word submit assumes respect, the word means more than that. I can respect someone while doing exactly the opposite of what they advise me to do. Submit literally means to “under-row,” to stroke through the waters of life under the guidance of someone in authority. In this context it is the corresponding responsibility of the members of a church to respond to the elders shepherding by following their guidance.

3. Mutual submission. As in other passages teaching submission to authority, Peter widens the concept of submission beyond the simple leader/follower relationship to remind Christians that we are also to submit humbly to one another. This in no way waters down the need to submit to spiritual authority, but it does remind those in authority that we are all to submit to one another. I believe this submission is twofold: (1) We submit to the truth others speak into our lives. (2) We submit our personal needs, desires, and opinions to others.

4. Clothed with humility. “Let humility be what others see in you as you serve one another.” The word clothed was used to describe a slave putting on a slave’s apron over his or her clothes.

C. Motivation for Members: God gives grace to and exalts those who humbly submit to His will because they know they are His personal concern (5b-7).

1. Proverbs 3:34 clearly teaches that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

2. Therefore, humbly accept His will (submit to authority and to one another as you serve with humility in the flock) because you know He will exalt you and care for you.

a. In due time—when He sovereignly decides to exalt you. This may not be during our lifetime on earth, but it will occur at Jesus Judgment Seat (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12-13).

b. Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. This is one of the most precious promises in Scripture. But keep in mind it’s in the context of humbly submitting to spiritual authority and one another as we serve in the local assembly. A more literal translation would be, “Throw your burdens upon the Lord Jesus as you would throw your burdens on a pack horse, for you matter to Him.”

II. Faithful Christians need a healthy church, filled with submissive servants entrusting their lives to their Faithful Creator who cares for them personally!

A. Commitment to a local church involves a lot more than showing up on most Sundays, giving a little, and maybe getting involved in something that catches your fancy. It means coming under the authority of loving shepherds and the truth that is spoken into your life from others. It also means selflessly and sacrificially serving others as you entrust your life to God. How would you rate your “commitment” to your local church?

B. What do you think you would do if an elder, pastor, HUB group leader, or ministry leader told you something you didn’t want to hear or asked you to do something you didn’t want to do? Your answer to that is one of the best measurements of your trust in the Lord Jesus to care for you!

C. Are you a leader? Notice there is nothing in this passage that says, “Tell people they must submit to you!” Submission is never demanded. Like respect, it is earned.

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Resist Your Adversary

1 Peter 5:8-11

Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion,

seeking whom he may devour.

Resist him, steadfast in the faith (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Peter begins his discussion of our responsibilities in relationship to the church by telling Christians to entrust their lives to their Faithful Creator, especially during times of suffering. Having already reminded believers of their critical resource during tough times—the church, Peter now exhorts the members of the assembly to build the type of church hurting believers need in 5:1-11. Hurting believers need a healthy flock as they follow their Good Shepherd. They need leaders who shepherd well (1-4), and followers who humbly respect their leaders as they cast their cares on God (5-7). And they need a faith community where neither the shepherds nor the flock underestimate the power of the devil or the power of God’s grace (8-11).

The same Peter who overestimated his strength in the Garden, while underestimating the true enemy, warns Christians to stay alert to their need to resist the devil:

 

Suffering Christians need a healthy respect for the enemy!

Alertly resisting the devil by sound faith, sober expectations, and confidence in God.⇦Tweet that!

The epistle teaching Christians how to persevere in this alien and hurtful world closes with paragraphs all about the local body of Christians—the church. It’s a vital link. Christians need a healthy local church!

I. Peter exhorts both leaders and members of the church to remain alert to our enemy, the devil, and to resist him by staying strong in the faith and remembering that every Christian suffers in this world. But don’t fear the devil, for our God is greater than that mere created being. (1 Peter 5:8-11)

A. Textual Context: In light of inevitable suffering, believers should entrust their lives to their Faithful Creator (4:12-19). The first priority in trusting God in this way is to be a part of a healthy faith community—a flock of the Good Shepherd that resists the enemy (5:1-11).

B. Command to Both Leaders and Followers: Alertly resist the devil by remaining committed to “the faith” and remembering that all Christians suffer in this alien and hurtful world (8-9).

1. Be sober, be vigilant, resist him. These are all commands that are timeless, meaning that Christians should live with a healthy respect for the enemy—the devil.

2. Walks about, seeking. These are all present tense verbs—emphasizing the relentless character of the devil’s desire to suddenly destroy Christians in the same way a lion suddenly devours prey.

3. Steadfast in “the faith”. This isn’t speaking of the strength of personal faith but remaining steadfast in “the faith”—the teaching of Christ and the apostles. Sound doctrine is critical to resisting the devil.

4. Knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. The word translated “experienced” speaks of laying a burden or tax upon someone. Peter’s point is that suffering isn’t unique to any single Christian or faith community. The “tax” of suffering for Christ is levied on every devoted disciple and devoted faith community in this alien and hurtful world (Cf. 4:12).

C. Prayer for Suffering Christians Resisting the Devil: Remember that the gracious God who called you to eternal glory will mend your temporary wounds, strengthen you, and ground you firmly along the way (9-11). Peter piles up these future active indicative verbs to underscore God’s amazing and awesome care of His devoted disciples in this alien and hurtful world.

II. Faithful Christians need a healthy church, living alertly with a healthy respect for the devil but confident in God’s care, regardless of the pain!

The devil is always probing the perimeter of your life and the life of your church. Are you prepared?

Do you live with a healthy respect for the devil and his forces of evil?

Do you know his tactics? His conduits of influence? Your vulnerabilities?

Are you steadfast in the faith? Do you know your Bible and are you growing in your understanding of sound doctrine?

Do you live with realistic expectations? Or do you fall apart every time suffering comes your way?

Do you live with the confidence that no matter what life brings, your Faithful Creator is perfectly caring for you?

Do you get beyond your own pain by praying for the spiritually oppressed and suffering believers around the world?

The devil is always probing the perimeter of your life and the life of your church. Are you protected?

Does your church live with a healthy respect for the devil and his forces of evil?

Do they know his tactics? His conduits of influence? Their vulnerabilities?

Are they steadfast in the faith? Do they know their Bible and are they growing in their understanding of sound doctrine?

Do they live with realistic expectations? Or do they fall apart every time suffering comes their way?

Do they live with the confidence that no matter what life brings, their Faithful Creator is perfectly caring for you?

Do they get beyond their own pain by praying for the spiritually oppressed and suffering believers around the world?

First Peter: A Look Back

Stand fast in grace!

1 Peter 5:12-14

“I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you,

and testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

(1 Peter 5:12, NET Bible)

Review

It’s 64 AD. Paul’s death under the cruel persecution of the wicked Emperor Nero staggers Christianity. The infant church questions God’s goodness and power, especially on the frontiers of faith—the fledgling assemblies scattered throughout the five provinces of Asia Minor. Today that area is northern Turkey.

The news of Paul’s death and the raw threat of persecution and suffering force the young church and its even younger shepherds and flocks to ask the questions every follower of Christ will ask:

If God is good, then how could He allow this to happen to us? I thought He loved us!

If Christ is building His church, then why is this so hard? I thought we were the world’s only hope!

Someone needed to step in with answers to those faith-shattering questions.

Someone needed to bring God’s message to these stumbling fellowships.

Someone needed to teach these immature shepherds and their flocks how to access grace in the midst of suffering.

Someone did. The Apostle Peter writes from his own experience. Our study of Mark traced Peter’s personal struggle with the Lord’s hard message: Those who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to suffer and serve in His name.

The lessons Peter learned along the way are the principles he teaches in this letter to the church. Lessons that take followers of Christ beyond the anticipation of suffering to the expectation of power and grace in the midst of suffering. Lessons to carry you through your darkest days. Lessons to show you how the light of God’s grace in Christ Jesus will penetrate your darkest days and fill you with a joy only those who continue to follow will ever know. But, you’re going to need every grace resource Peter speaks of:

You need grace to stand in, truth to stand on, and a faith community to stand with!⇦Tweet that!

First Peter is a field manual for warriors serving their King in a hostile land.

I. Peter encourages Christians to persevere during hard times by reminding us of who we are and exhorting us to live as if it’s true.

A. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter from Rome to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, living as aliens in a hostile land under a hostile king.

In the same way Peter referred to Mark symbolically as “my son,” he referred to the Roman church as “she who is in Babylon” (5:13). Peter chose the term “Babylon” to emphasize the evil of the Roman Empire without explicitly referring to it in ways that put the church at risk. This also emphasizes the “alien” dynamic recalling Israel’s exile to Babylon where they lived as aliens in a hostile land.

Peter is specifically writing to the geographical areas in Asia Minor where Paul’s ministry barely penetrated (Acts 16:6-7). These congregations were mixed, Jewish-Gentile. His heavy use of the Old Testament and referral to “elect strangers of the dispersion” (1:1) identifies the Jewish believers. His reference to them as a people who “once were no people, but now you are a people of God” (2:10), and the exhortation not to live any longer as “Gentiles” (4:4) identifies the Gentile believers.

It seems Peter used Sylvanus as the editor and courier of this letter (5:12). Sylvanus, a traveling companion of Paul would have been familiar to the Gentile readers and more acquainted with Paul’s writings. Peter, of course, was known as a pillar of the church.

B. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage these congregations in the faith in the face of growing persecution and to affirm the teachings of Paul.

1. Paul’s death left them vulnerable to those who opposed Paul’s radical message of grace.

2. Paul’s death left them discouraged and doubting God’s goodness and power in the face of suffering.

C. Outline: Peter reminds us of who we are in Christ and then tells us to live our lives as if it’s true—even during hard times.

1. Introduction: This is a letter to God’s elect, living as scattered aliens in a hostile land under a hostile king (1:1-2).

2. Bless God whose mercy has recreated us in Christ (1:3-2:10).

a. We have a precious salvation, which gives us hope and joy, and was predicted by the prophets and desired by the angels (1:2-12).

b. Our precious salvation compels us to a holy life as our Father’s obedient children who love Him and His children (1:13-25).

c. We have become a chosen priesthood who crave His word and offer genuine worship because we are God’s new spiritual house built upon the precious stone the builders rejected and His new nation to the praise of His glory (2:1-10).

3. Live for God by honoring Him in your relationship with this world and one another (2:11-5:11).

a. Live for God in the world by abstaining from sin and living good lives before non-Christians, respecting everyone (including authorities) selflessly (2:11-3:12), suffering well by remembering God is good, following Christ’s example, hoping in heaven (3:13-4:6), and by clinging to one another to face the hard times together (4:7-11).

b. Live for God in the church by remembering that the time to serve one another is short—gather in groups; pray hard; love well (4:7-11), knowing that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ (4:12-19), and persevering in spite of suffering (5:1-11).

D. Conclusion: This is a letter encouraging you to stand firm in God’s grace from your friends in the church at Rome (5:12-14).

1. Peter chooses the last few verses to state his overall purpose in writing this epistle: To encourage and equip them to, “Stand fast in the true grace of God in the midst of suffering!”

2. Peter closes his letter with a remarkable statement about our need for community: “elect together” is not speaking of the general election of Christians to eternal glory (5:9) but of certain Christians chosen together for their distinct corporate assignment in service to Jesus (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:15; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28).

3. Peter’s touching emphasis on relationship as he says goodbye: The church at Rome (Babylon, emphasizing the alien and pilgrim status of Christians in exile from our true home), greets you, and so does my friend Mark.

II. The question isn’t, “Will I suffer for Christ?” The question is, “Will I know how to access His grace when I suffer for Christ?”

You need…

…grace to stand in

… truth to stand on

…and a faith community to stand with!