Author

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 (Acts 10:1-48).
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).

Recipient

In his first epistle, Peter indicates that he was writing to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1; See Map A). These were believers scattered in northern Asia Minor.

Date

Peter’s first epistle was probably written in 62-64, before the great fire in Rome that led to Nero’s persecution of Christians.

Purpose/Occasion

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.

Central Verse

“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).

Survey

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 trials (3:13-5:11).
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.
See 2:5, 9, 10, 11; 4:16, 18; 5:2.

Themes

Look up the list of references under each theme and summarize its related teachings.

Sufferings and Trials

1:6-7 ____________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
1:11 ____________________________________________________
2:12 ____________________________________________________
2:19-20 __________________________________________________
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2:21-23 __________________________________________________
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3:14 ____________________________________________________
3:16 ____________________________________________________
3:17 ____________________________________________________
3:18 ____________________________________________________
4:1 _____________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
4:4 _____________________________________________________
4:12 ____________________________________________________
4:13-16__________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
4:19 ____________________________________________________
5:1 _____________________________________________________
5:9 _____________________________________________________
5:10 ____________________________________________________

Glorious Hope

1:3-4 ____________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
1:7 _____________________________________________________
1:8 _____________________________________________________
1:13 ____________________________________________________
1:21 ____________________________________________________
4:13 ____________________________________________________
5:1 _____________________________________________________
5:4 _____________________________________________________
5:10 ____________________________________________________

Holy Living and Separation

1:14-16 __________________________________________________
1:17 ____________________________________________________
2:1 _____________________________________________________
2:4-5 ____________________________________________________
2:9-10 ___________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
2:11-12 __________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
3:8-12 ___________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
4:1-3 ____________________________________________________

Submission

2:13-17 __________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
2:18-19 __________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
2:23 ____________________________________________________
3:1-2 ____________________________________________________
4:19 ____________________________________________________
5:5-6 ____________________________________________________
________________________________________________________

Modern Relevance

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.

Map & Chart

Map A Geography in the time of the early church