Introduction: 1 Peter is a circular letter written to the churches of Asia Minor. It comforts believers in their suffering and exhorts them to moral behavior, including obedience the government, in the hopes of improving the image of Christianity among pagan Gentiles. The letter claims to be written by Peter, the apostle of Jesus, but this is almost certainly not true. The Gospel of Mark calls Peter a fisherman from Galilee (Mark 1:16), and Acts 4:13 specifically says Peter is uneducated (4:13). 1 Peter was probably written in the later half of the first century by an educated Greek-speaking Christian.
1 Peter: God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. Even the prophets and the angels envy the good news you have received from heaven. Live in reverent fear during your time of exile on Earth; you are now God’s chosen people. Love one another from the heart; rid yourselves of all malice, guile, insincerity, and envy; let yourselves be built into a spiritual house in which to offer spiritual sacrifices. Conduct yourselves well among the Gentiles–accept the authority of every human institution, whether the emperor or governors sent by him to punish wrongdoers. Slaves, obey your masters even if they are harsh–just as Jesus suffered for us, so you should endure pain while suffering justly. Wives, obey your husbands even if they are non-believers; your pure and reverent conduct might convert them. Husbands, show consideration for your wives, honoring women as the weaker sex.
Who will harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed, for Jesus also suffered for our sins. Your previous friends are surprised that you no longer join them in their licentiousness, drunkenness, and revels, so they blaspheme. But they will need to account for their actions before God. The end of the world is near–therefore discipline yourselves and serve one another. Do not be surprised at the persecution you are facing–the unbelievers will be judged much more harshly than the believers. As an elder myself, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock with gentleness. The young must accept the authority of the elders, for God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
- In the letter, “Babylon” does not literally mean Babylon, but is rather a code word for Rome
- The persecution that the churches are facing is mainly verbal and grassroots (2:23, 3:9, 3:16). Some of it comes from Gentiles who used to be companions with the Christians. According to the author, these Gentiles blaspheme because the Christians no longer engage in drunkenness and licentiousness with them (4:4). This is probably much too harsh–the friends and family of believers are probably distraught at losing a loved one or a dear friend to what they perceive as a dangerous new cult.
- Remarkably, the author exhorts the churches to “honor the emperor” (2:17). Contrast this to Relevation, where the Roman Empire is portrayed as The Beast.