Podcast: The Book of 1 Peter
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This book is a well-balanced letter (written between 60-68AD) addressing the social ostracism believers faced as they lived in exile. It is written to dispersed believers in the region of modern-day Turkey – an area in which worship of the Emperor was extremely common.
We find rich theology in the first two verses of this letter. First, Peter interacts with the concept of the Trinity. Surprisingly, the church was already accustomed to speaking about God in three persons a mere 30 years following the death of Christ. Second, Peter addresses the Trinity’s work of bringing about our election and sanctification. Election is according to God’s foreknowledge. Sanctification (being made holy) is all for the purpose of obedience to Christ and “for sprinkling with his blood” (another reference to being made holy).
The outline of 1 Peter is based on topics:
Chapter 1: Salvation/obedience and holiness
Chapter 2: Submission
Chapter 3-5: Suffering
The dominant themes of suffering and holiness are found together throughout the letter. As a regenerated Christian, one cannot experience suffering and not experience sanctification simultaneously.
The suffering Peter addresses is most likely that of social ostracism. Chapter 4:1-4 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”
Suffering in this context is one of being socially maligned and mistreated because of different moral convictions. The parallels to where the American church is heading (and perhaps there already) is striking. In our society where abortion is not only accepted but praised, where one could lose his job for looking at someone “wrong”, where truth is what one “feels” instead of being based on absolute facts, the social persecution of Christians seems inevitable. In fact, for the vast majority of Christian history, this has been normal, not abnormal. Christ demonstrates this in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Persecution of Christians (whether physically or socially) is the norm. Yet for the majority of American history, the Church has experienced physical and social freedom. Is this what is best for the church?
In conclusion, the book of 1 Peter speaks to believers who are exiled in the Roman empire and encourages them in their persecution that comes from social ostracization. He admonishes the churches to keep their conduct honorable as they live out their faith amid a perverted and wicked culture, to expect persecution, and to remember where their true citizenship lies.
Brittany Proffitt lives in southern Ohio, holds a BA in Religion, and is a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is passionate about Scripture and how God’s Word impacts individuals’ hearts and lives.