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Epistle of First Peter by Professor Benjamin W Robinson

The Purpose of the Epistle. This Epistle originally written to hearten and encourage Christians in a time of special affliction, has become one of the world’s greatest expressions of the glory of fortitude of enduring the hardships of life. As the key word to understanding of the Epistle of Jude “antinomianism”  (lawlessness), and as Second Peter centres in the “promise of Christ’s second coming”

 

1 Peter 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

 

So First Peter unlocks its spiritual treasures to one who holds constantly in mind the word “persecution”.

 

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

 

1 Peter 4:12  Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

 

There is no more rewarding study in all the field of religion than that of the problem of suffering. The book of Job offers one solution, namely, that God lets His children be afflicted to prove their loyalty. In the suffering

servant of Isaiah 53 the problem is solved by the expression of the conviction that suffering finds its glorification in service to others. ( i.e. Christ to service of God, and man). There were many attempts by Christians to explain the sufferings of Christ. Chief among them is the idea that He suffered because of the sins and short-comings of others. 

Later comments will indicate that 1 Peter has many different ways of stating the Peter’s solution of the problem of suffering. Foremost among them is his positive and convincing way of saying that suffering is a means of purifying and ennobling the soul.

 

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

 

It brings us into closer fellowship with Christ, and so helps us to attain that higher life which Christ imparts.

 

1 Peter 2:1—11

01 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

02 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

03 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

04 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,

05 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

06 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

07 Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the Head of the corner,

08 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

09 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

 

“One who really suffers ceases from sin and lives the rest of his life in harmony with God’s will.”

 

1 Peter 4:1—2

1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

 

The Background of Persecution.

Christians in Pontus, Galatia, and other provinces of Asia Minor were undergoing a time of testing. “You have now been put to grief in manifold trials in order that your faith may be found  more precious than gold when tested with fire.”

 

1 Peter 1:6—7

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

 

“Do not think it strange that a fiery test is being put upon you”

 

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

 

Among the countless Papyrus sheets discovered in recent years containing letters and records from the early centuries, are many little pieces called libelli. They are the signed statements of individuals who made affidavit

(An affidavit is a sworn statement or statements made under oath and under penalty of perjury.) in the time of the Decian persecution that they were not worshippers of Jesus or of the Christian God .

(The Decian persecution resulted from an edict issued in 250 by the Emperor Decius ordering everyone in the Roman Empire to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods)

One of these signed statements mentioned by Milligan (Here and there among the Papyri, p142) reads in part as follows:

“To the Sacrifice Officials: Aurelia Demos, wife of Aurelius Irenæus, makes affidavit that it has always been my custom to offer sacrifices to the gods, and I have now in your presence, according to your command, offered sacrifice and libation, (Religious practice Historical Ancient Egypt. Libation was part of ancient Egyptian society where it was a drink offering to honour and please the various divinities) and have partaken of the offering”.

It is not likely that people who were not associating with Christians would be suspected. The probability is that many who had been Christians in name did in a cowardly fear obey the command to offer incense.

The Christian who did not partake of such sacrificial feasts socially ostracised himself, and yet to partake meant grave moral temptation. But that form of Heathenism which no Christian could avoid, however he might keep himself aloof from the social and commercial life of his fellow citizens, was the worship of the emperors which was increasingly imposed on all the inhabitants of the empire, no matter whatever their race or religion.

The rest is prediction, based on unwavering confidence that God will deal with the persecutor as he deserves.

Finally a word must be said about the anti-Christ idea. The conception arose of the battle of God (or His representative) with the devil at the end of the world. It is very unlikely says Bousset, “that anti-Christ is originally nothing else than the incarnate devil (invested with bodily and especially human nature and form)

It so happens we have a letter written by the Governor of Bithynia, the province mentioned in (1 Peter 1:1), written in the year 110 A.D. (almost as slow as our snail mail) to the Roman emperor, about the Christians.

“With those who have been brought before me as Christians, I have pursued the following course: I have asked them if they were Christians, and if they confessed, I have asked them a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment: If they have persisted I have commanded them to be led away to punishment.” (For further discussion see R W Robinson, The Life of Paul, and P160).

Who shall say how many were saved from a cowardly surrender by the triumphant faith and conviction conveyed in such an Epistle as this of Peter? If many fell away, the church was purified and made stronger. This Epistle and the victory pervading it made the victory sure. In every age, the Spirit of Jesus expressing itself through His followers assures the triumph of the higher kind of life and more and more ennobles human experience.

First Peter is best understood as a revelation of a great historical situation in which the purer and higher triumphed over the baser and the worse.

The Epistle is no longer viewed merely as a statement of doctrine by a single author. History proves that the Epistle found response in the hearts of a great multitude. This is shown not merely by the fact that Christianity triumphed of persecution, but also by the fact the Epistle was preserved and taken into the canon of Scripture. In a very real sense it may be said that First Peter is the triumphant song of countless heroes who saved the world from militarism and materialism, setting up an ideal of spiritual fellowship and brotherhood which is still marching toward the great victory.

 

The Author of the Epistle.

The modern reader of the Epistle has no difficulty in the matter of authorship. Anything in it which does not sound like a direct word of the apostle Peter may be regarded as due to the work of Sylvanus. He was Greek as his name indicates. He may even have been the same Sylvanus (called Silas in Acts) who accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey.

Sylvanus may either have written at Peter’s dictation, or have been told by peter to write the Epistle. It is even conceivable (as suggested by von Soden) that Sylvanus may have written after the death of Peter. In any case the Epistle stands forth in all its glory as an expression of that remarkable fortitude which Peter manifested in his imprisonment and endurance of every kind of persecution, even to his death by crucifixion.   

 

Date and Destination.

The date of the letter is somewhat uncertain. If it is thought that the persecution was that of Domitian, it must have been written at the end of the first century. But as great an historian as Mommsen has said that the situation revealed may be as early as the time of Nero (64 A.D.). Most scholars find no serious difficulty with the date of 64 .A. D., within the lifetime of Peter. Cp http://www.godsplan.org.uk/jude.htm

The provinces to which the Epistle is addressed should not be understood in too limited a way. The list does not mean that the bearer of the letter went first to Pontus and when it had been read there, went on to Galatia.and then to the other provinces mentioned.

The Epistle is rather a general one for the use of all Christians wherever found, who were, and will be, subjected to trials.  

 

1 Peter 3:17--18

17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing than for evil doing.

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh.

 

The Content of the Epistle.

The Epistle is best understood when read as a whole (from beginning to end). It is not so much a collection of individual texts as it is the following of a lofty line of thought. The spirit of the letter is hope and triumph. There is no effort to deny the reality of the persecution. The author had known the sufferings of Christ http://www.godsplan.org.uk/thesufferingsandglory.htm and had, through his own experience, become a partaker in the Christian triumph. There was in his mind the promise to the sons of Zebedee that they should drink the cup which Jesus drank.

 

Matthew 20:2034

20 Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him.

21 And He said unto her, “What wilt thou?” She saith unto him, “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They say unto Him, “We are able.”

23 And He saith unto them, “Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”

24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.

25 But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them”.

26 ‘But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;’

27 ‘And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:’

28 ‘Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.’”

29 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.

30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David.”

31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David.”

32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, “What will ye that I shall do unto you?”

33 They say unto him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”

34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

 

There was perhaps also in His mind that word in;

 

John 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

 

The fiery trial make those who experience it partakers of Christ’s suffering, so that they may rejoice and may share in the revelation of His glory. (See link above). Peter a messenger of Jesus, sends greetings to the Christians in the provinces of Asia.

 

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

 

We offer thanks to God for the everlasting blessings which we have inherited from Jesus, and for the reward and glory which are soon to be ours. Your persecutions and trials, though manifold, are but temporary. Their purpose is to purify, as fire purifies gold. Jesus, whom yo love without having seen, sheds a joy in your hearts and through Him your souls are saved. Prophets have long forseen that, after a time of suffering, there comes a time of glory when the Spirit Christ triumphs.

 

1 John 3—12   

01 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

02 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is.

03 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.

04 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

05 And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.

06 Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known him.

07 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.

08 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

09 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore [why] slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

 

Keep your mind and hearts upon the higher level, obeying the commands of Jesus Christ. Do not give way to your former temptations and weaknesses, but live like Christ in the holiness of the Father. Remember that jesus shed His lifeblood for you. as He triumphed over death, so shall you with Him rise above  your inherited desires and your sufferings.

 

1 John 1:13--21

13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:

15 But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear [reverence]:

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;

19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

21 Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

 

To your purity of soul, add a deep spirit of love and service one for another and remember that you are living a higher kind of life that is above the realm of the flesh.

 

1 Peter 1:22—25

22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

 

You have been born into a new life. Feed on the spiritual milk which is not adulterated, that you may grow rapidly and become healthy. You are stones in a new building, a living temple, of which Jesus Christ is the corner stone. You are a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices . You are God’s chosen who are called out of darkness into His marvellous light.

 

1 Peter 2:1—10

01 Wherefore [why] laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

02 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

03 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

04 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,

05 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

06 Wherefore [why] also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.

07 Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

08 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

09 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;

10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

Be sure that you honour the name of the Lord in all your living. Do your duty in public and private. If persecuted endure it with fortitude (strength and endurance in a difficult or painful situation). Jesus is your example. When he was reviled, He reviled not again. He died that we might live. By His stripes you are healed.

 

1 Peter 2:11—25

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear [revere] God, Honour the king.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth:

23 Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

 

Let wives and husbands live in peace with each other. Be sympathetic towards all, do not return evil for evil, keep your lips from unclean of violent words.

 

1 Peter 3: 1—12

01 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

02 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear[reverence].

03 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

04 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

05 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

06 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

07 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

08 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

09 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

 

You have spent time enough in the past in unchristian dissipation. Men are surprised that you no longer consort with them in these things. That is the reason they speak evil of you.

 

1 Peter 4: 1—6

1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banqueting’s, and abominable idolatries:

4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

5 Who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

 

But the end is not far away. Be serious and take time for prayer. Keep your spirit of love vigorous. Love covers a host of shortcomings. Serve each other with all the power of God’s Spirit.

 

1 Peter 4: 7—11

07 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

08 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

09 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Do not think it strange that a fiery test is upon you. It makes you partners of Christ’s sufferings. Punishment for murder or theft is a disgrace, but suffering as a Christian glorifies Christ and God and him who suffers.

 

1 Peter 4:12—19

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.

16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

19 Wherefore [why] let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

 

As a fellow elder I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God, not for money, but in the spirit of the Great Shepherd. To the rest of you, I appeal to be loyal to your elders. Put your worry and anxiety in God’s hand, and he, after your brief suffering, will make you perfect.

 

1 Peter 5:1—11  

01 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

02 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

03 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.

04 And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

05 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

06 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time:

07 Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you.

08 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

09 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

11 To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Written by the hand of Sylvanus. The church in Babylon sends greetings. The Epistle is addressed to the “elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion” The word elect = chosen by God, and should be understood in the particularly personal sense of “invited ones”