10: Joy in Suffering (Introduction to
The author identifies himself as Simon Peter (1:1), a witness of the
sufferings of Christ (5:1; cf. 3:18; 4:1). Widespread external attestations by
Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of
Alexandria also support Peter’s authorship. However, it appears that Silvanus
made a valuable contribution towards writing the first letter (5:12).
Simon Peter, the son of Jonah, was a commercial fisherman with his
brother Andrew. His home was based in Bethsaida
(birthplace) and Capernaum, north of the Sea of Galilee (Jn 1:44).
Jesus identified Simon from his occupation and called him to become
fishers of men (Lk 5:1-11). Jesus gave him the name Cephas, or Peter, which means “rock.” During Jesus’
ministry, Peter, the leader of the twelve disciples, confessed Jesus as the
Messiah (Mt 16:13-16). As one of the three disciples closest to Jesus, he bore
witness to the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9). Although he had vowed to follow the
Lord unto death, his courage evaporated at the time of crisis and turned into
outright denials of the Lord (Mt 26:34,35; 69-75). Yet
despite Peter’s bitter failure, the Lord appeared to Him at Jerusalem after the resurrection (Lk 24:33-34).
On the day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit,
witnessed to the multitude and preached that Jesus was the Christ. Later, while
at Joppa, he received revelation from the Lord through a vision that Gentiles
would be included in the salvation grace. Obeying the Holy Spirit’s
instructions, Peter brought the gospel message to the first Gentile believers
The apostle and servant of Christ then travelled to Judea and Samaria proclaiming the
Gospel to Gentiles. At the Jerusalem Council, Peter spoke from his personal
experience and warned against excluding Gentiles from the faith (Acts 15:6-11).
However, on one occasion, he was reprimanded by Paul when he withdrew from the
company of Gentile believers for fear of the Jews who advocated circumcision
(Gal 2:11-14). But despite this open rebuke by a much younger minister, Peter
still considered Paul as a beloved brother and acknowledged the wisdom Paul had
received from the Lord (2Pet 3:15).
In his first epistle, Peter indicates that he was writing to “the
pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus,
Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia,
(1:1; See Map A). These were believers scattered in northern Asia
Peter’s first epistle was probably written in 62-64, before the
great fire in Rome
that led to Nero’s persecution of Christians.
5:13 indicates that Peter was in Babylon when he wrote the first epistle. Some
interpret “Babylon” as a figurative reference to
Rome (cf. Rev 17:18),
whereas others believe that it was either Babylon
on the Euphrates in Mesopotamia or Babylon on
the Nile in Egypt
during the first century.
The words, “pilgrims” and “Dispersion” (1:1) indicate that
Christians were going through sufferings as strangers scattered in various
places. Many perceived Christians as evildoers, slandered them for their godly
behavior, and oppressed them for their faith. With comforting words of
encouragement, Peter exhorts them to endure sufferings through the grace of God
and lead blameless lives in the midst of unbelievers. He further reminds them
of the glory that awaits them.
“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” (1:13).
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by
Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen,
and settle you” (5:10).
1. After reading the epistle once, record a descriptive heading for
each of the paragraph divisions in chart B. In particular, observe the symmetry
in the epistle: Outlook on trials (1:3-12); Christian living (1:13-25);
Identity of Christians (2:1-10); Christian living (2:11-3:12); Outlook on
2. Peter identifies believers in a number of ways (e.g. “obedient
children” in 1:14). Write down as many of these identities as you can find.
Look up the list of references under each theme and summarize its
Holy Living and
Pilgrims, elect, call, hope, salvation, last time, trials, glory,
revelation, sufferings, grace, holy, precious, submit, do good.
Although we may not be suffering as strangers in a foreign land, in
a spiritual sense, we are all pilgrims on earth. Consequently, we often face
the pressures of the secular society and suffer discrimination for maintaining
a certain ethical standard based on our faith in Christ. Thus, Peter encourages
us to rejoice and glory in our trials when we suffer for the faith. As God’s
elect, we ought to live holy lives while waiting for the coming of the Lord,
even if it results in suffering. Peter furthermore gives practical guidelines
on how to conduct ourselves as citizens, employees, husbands or wives, elders
or younger people. While fulfilling our social and familial obligations, we
need to conduct ourselves with a clear conscience so that God’s name may be
glorified even among unbelievers.