1 Peter 1

1 Peter likely wrote this letter a few years before the Roman government-sanctioned persecution of Christians, which Nero began in 64 A.D., to encourage new Christians to be strong despite the persecution that came from the social and religious cultures around them. The radical lifestyle and philosophical changes that the Christian represented inadvertently elicited suspicion and fear from the pagan and secular cultures, as is still often the case today. Christians who proclaimed their faith in Jesus probably saw the same kinds of reactions that Paul received in many places.

The apostle Peter had always been accepted as the author of this letter until more recently when some have suggested that the style and command of the Greek language was too good for an "uneducated" fisherman (Acts 4:13). However, others have pointed out that uneducated does not mean illiterate, and the religious leaders in the verse were astonished because of the apostles' understanding despite their lack of formal training. Peter may have used Greek even as a fisherman since it was the common language of trade in his day. His ministry spanned about 30 years, giving him ample time to further learn and refine his language skills, especially considering that the Greek-speaking Gentiles were one of the groups he ministered to. It is also known that Greek-speaking men served as secretaries for him, possibly suggesting whatever word combinations and grammar structures that would make sense to native Greek-speaking people. There is no other Peter mentioned in the Bible other than him, so there is no compelling argument to suggest that there is any other author. Positive external identifications of Peter as the author include quotes from other authors as early as 70 A.D.

This letter is addressed to those believers ("the chosen") who were driven out of Jerusalem and now resided as aliens in several provinces in Asia Minor (Acts 8:3-4; note that "Asia" refers to several provinces of which Ephesus was the capital). Many believe that this could refer to Christians in general, being "aliens" in this world regardless of their location, since their eternal home is in heaven. Others suggest that this could refer to Jewish converts of the Diaspora.

This was an open letter that was meant to be read publicly and then carried to the next location.

2 This letter was written to those who "are chosen ... to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood," that is, Christians.

We are told that God knew who would become Christians and that this work involved the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Christ (all three Persons of the Trinity are involved). Some believe that God determined ahead of time exactly who would be saved while others believe that people themselves determine whether to follow God or not. This passage is too general to lend itself well to this particular debate, it simply indicates that there are chosen, God knew who they would be, the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ are involved, and that obedience on the part of people is a factor. It does not indicate the motive or mechanism for how these all these interact in the process of salvation.

The work of the Holy Spirit is to set people apart for service to God. The sprinkling of blood is reminiscent of the Old Testament performance of this ceremony when cleansing people and making atonement for them (Lev 14:7, Lev 16:11-16). Sprinkling of blood is also a symbol of the promises that exist between God and His people (Exo 24:8).

Peter greets the recipients with a blessing: that a full measure of grace and peace would be theirs. As Christians, the readers already had both, but Peter indicates that these things can continue to grow throughout one's relationship with Christ. Grace is unmerited favor. As we grow in our relationship with God, we understand more how imperfect we are and how much we need to depend on God for salvation and guidance. Peace is more than a simple lack of anxiety in one's spirit, it includes the knowledge that we are on good terms with God and the assurance that our eternal future in heaven will give us joy far surpassing the difficulties of this life.

3 Peter begins his letter by praising God, recounting His abundant mercy by which He sent His Son to die on our behalf. God's justice did not require Him to save sinful people, but His love compelled Him to be merciful. Without His help, people, His most valued creation, would hopeless to escape the punishment of death since there is no way we could be sinless (and thereby worthy of His presence) in this world. Through faith in Christ's work, our spirits are regenerated. We are "born again" in that we are given a spiritual life that we did not have before (John 3:3). However, the hope we have is not only for God's acceptance and spiritual clarity during this lifetime - He gives us a hope for eternal life that stems from the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
4 Jesus said that all people would rise from the dead, but their eternal dwellings would be very different based on their relationship with Him that they establish in this lifetime. The inheritance Christians receive as adopted children of God is an eternal home in the Kingdom of God. It will not have anything evil or impure in it. Besides lasting forever, we are told here that it will not spoil as fruit does, nor will it fade or wither like flowers do -- it will forever be fresh and vibrant. Presently, this kingdom is in heaven, but at the end times, the New Jerusalem will be lowered to earth, and God will have a continual presence there (Rev 21:2-4).
5 God's power works though our faith in a way we do not understand, but we can be assured that our salvation is secure no matter what our circumstances or what mistakes we make. God guards our spirits, most likely because we ourselves are two weak to resist the spiritual forces that assault us. Christians are saved in the present tense in that they have established a good relationship with God. The salvation that is to be revealed is specifically the resurrection from the dead and subsequent admission into heaven. So while we can see examples of Christians relating to God now, we must have faith that the culmination of the salvation process will happen as promised based on the one example of Christ being resurrected from the dead.
6 This great hope allows the Christian to rejoice, even when the daily stress of life is made nearly unbearable because of added trials. These trials could be anything including poverty, sickness, and persecution, but the promise of salvation helps the Christian not merely to survive, but to thrive despite life's difficulties. Peter reminds them that these ordeals would only last a little while, probably meaning in comparison to the Christian's eternal inheritance in heaven. The apostle hints that hardships, at least for some, are necessary to refine one's character.
7 No matter what kind or degree of suffering one undergoes, one's faith can increase as he learns to trust and depend on God more. The fact that one can go through a trial and come out with his faith intact is evidence that it is real. In God's eyes, that makes him more valuable than purified gold because He is honored and glorified when His people place their confidence in Him. The culmination of this veneration will be at the Second Coming when God reveals to the universe how He was able to save hopeless people through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. The wealth and splendor of man will be destroyed in the Last Day, but God finds a better, eternal treasure in the love and faithfulness of His people.
8 The original audience likely had members who were alive when Christ was ministering, but because they were "scattered abroad," they did not see Him. Today also, Christians believe and love Jesus although we have not seen Him. The evidence of God in creation, the testimony of the Bible and previous believers, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives give us reason to believe. His love for us along with the hope of His promises give us reason to love Him and rejoice greatly to the point we cannot find suitable words to express it (John 20:29). Nonetheless, we in turn cannot help but glorify God in our joy.
9 Knowing that we have been reborn, seeing God's work now, and having heard His promises about the future, Christians can be fully assured of the completion of our salvation. If we were to trust in ourselves to complete it, we would despair, but because we believe God will save us as He promised, we can have full confidence that it will be done.
10 This salvation was revealed to the Old Testament prophets who carefully searched and inquired of God, hoping that He would reveal to them through the Holy Spirit more information about the Christ (Mat 13:17). Although they understood that sinful people could never make up for personal sins, they also knew that substitution was a remedy from God as depicted in the sacrifice of sheep, goats, and cattle. The twist was that God revealed that ritual sacrifices were insufficient for salvation. First, one could offer a sacrifice without any faith or knowledge of God. Second, the blood price from an animal was neither permanent nor adequate to pay for the life of a person. Thus, it was revealed that a perfect human, the Messiah, would be sacrificed, and that sacrifice would be sufficient to pay the penalty of sin for anyone, before or after the event, who believed that it would be so. God also revealed to the prophets that salvation would be extended to those outside of Israel, an idea that seemed absurd considering the many prohibitions in the Old Testament against the intermarriage of Israelites and Gentiles. God revealed that being in the heritage of the Chosen People was also insufficient to receive salvation. The underlying crux of a good relationship with God has always been faith, not rituals or heritage. Because of the significant difference this makes to one's religion and because of the few details given, the words of the prophets were often obscure, and different aspects were revealed to several of them, sometimes in seemingly obtuse places. They knew their responsibility to convey this information to others, so they earnestly sought more information in order to explain these things as clearly as they were able.
11 Two of the questions all people were interested in was who the Christ would be, and when would He appear. The prophets were able to seek these answers with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who lived inside them. The Spirit did give some indicators about the place of birth, but the main foci of the Spirit's message was that the Christ would suffer and then attain an eternal and glorious kingdom. Matters concerning the time were revealed to few - possibly only one (Luke 2:25-32). Likewise, no one knew who He would be until the angel told Mary that He would be born of her (Luke 1:26-33).
12 The prophets were not told everything, and they understood that more revelations would be revealed in the future. Those who came later would be able to put the various pieces of the prophecy puzzle together. Even so, most people did not understand that Jesus was fulfilling prophecies until after the events of His First Coming were completed. It is now for the benefit of the Christians in this era that the prophets' words confirm what has happened and help make it easier for people to believe in Jesus.

The process of salvation and the culmination of world events are still matters that are impossible for people to fully understand, and even the angels wonder at what God has done and desire to know how these things will all work out in the end. However, based on God's fulfillment of so many prophecies, we can be confident that He will complete those that remain.

13 Having received salvation with a better understanding than the angels or the prophets of the past, Christians are to keep active minds ("girding up the loins" is the gathering of loose garments around oneself in order to run or perform a task that requires much movement). We are not to "leave our minds at the church door" as many in secular society often taunt. We are also not to passively follow every teaching our leaders give us, but continually search out the truth (Acts 17:11). If our leaders are right, we will come to the same conclusions they do, of course. We should also be thinking about ways we can reach our neighbors, friends, and coworkers with the Good News of Jesus.

On the other extreme of passivity is the passionate frenzy that some seem to go into whenever they are "filled with the spirit." While it is good to be enraptured with God, it should never become so much so that we begin acting foolishly or lose our mental awareness of the world around us (1 Cor 14:23). Our hope in this lifetime is neither for permanent rest or continual ecstasy, but rather that we have Jesus' grace forgiving our sins and a relationship with Him that is preparing us for heaven. A Christian must never give up that hope, no matter what his circumstances may be.

14 Christians are to behave in a manner appropriate of the title of God's children. This includes reverence towards Him and obedience to His commands. One should be wary of passions he had before knowing Jesus. The desires of that time are often based on gratifying oneself or responding to external pressures. A Christian's new focus is to be on what pleases God and what helps other people, so he should not try to fulfill those passions or do those things that now conflict with his devotion to Christ.
15 Christians are to imitate the character of God, specifically to be separated from sin in every area of one's life ("holy" means "set apart for sacred purposes").
16 This is the same command God gave Israel in Lev 11:44, with the Greek word being future tense. The idea is that one is working towards that goal, which will finally be completed at the Resurrection.
17 God has adopted Christians, so we call Him Father. We know that He does not judge people in the way the world does. He does not look at one's external appearance, wealth, accomplishments, influence, or reputation. He looks for those who believe in Him and strive to have a good relationship with Him. This is displayed outwardly as good works and a deep reverence for God. We know that our lifetime on earth is very short. We can consider it a mere journey as we look forward to spending eternity in heaven with God.
18 We know that no amount of money can be used to purchase God's favor after having offended Him by trying to live without Him, as everyone has from the time of Creation. While we consider precious metals like gold and silver to be of great worth, and gold in particular because of its resistance to decay, God sees them as perishable and of little value. It has been noted by others that we often pave roads with inexpensive materials like gravel, cement, and asphalt. In heaven, gold will be used for this purpose.
19 The only thing that can redeem anyone from slavery to sin and certain destruction is the blood of Christ. It is of more value than gold or silver because it can save the souls of men. Sacrificial lambs in the Old Testament provided a temporary way to atone for (i.e., cover over) sin, but Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we would not need to suffer eternal separation from God, even though that is what we deserve. Jesus was the only perfect human who never sinned, and because He was "spotless" in this manner, only His sacrifice satisfies God's justice as a substitute for those who believe in Him.
20 God appointed Jesus to this sacrificial role on behalf of mankind before the world was even created. Salvation was neither an afterthought nor a patch to a system that was not expected to break. In the mystery of God's foreknowledge of all these events, He still considered it better to create people whom He knew would turn away and need to be redeemed than not create them at all. The joy of having some of His prized creation turn back to Him is greater than the sorrow of the remainder who never will.

The timing was also part of God's plan. We might consider it possible and even desirable that God sent His Son in the days of Adam and Eve, but in His wisdom sent Him several thousand years later. Those in the Old Testament had to have faith looking forward to believe in the prophecies about the Messiah. We, however, have the benefit of faith based on the evidence that He has appeared.

The time between the advent of Christ and the Last Day is called the "last times." We do not know how long this last era will last, but the Bible assures us that Judgment Day is the next major spiritual event before God establishes His eternal kingdom.

21 The Gentiles, in particular, came to believe in God through the earthly manifestation of the Son, Christ Jesus. The Jews believed in God, but for at least some, the Messiah revealed God to them in such a way that their entire thinking about Him, and religious rituals, changed. God's resurrection of Jesus from the dead not only made faith attainable, but also gave all who would believe in Him a great hope in a glorious eternal life with God beyond this imperfect and temporary earthly existence.
22 One of the hallmarks of Christianity is an obvious love for one another (John 13:34-35). This means looking out for the spiritual and physical welfare of others in a self-sacrificial way. Love takes intense effort based on an honest desire to see others benefit, not out of guilt, guile, or obligation. This kind of love originates in a spirit that has been purified through obedience to the truths that God has revealed.
23 When we respond positively to the word of God, we are "born again," and through this spiritual birth we are granted the capacity to love in this way. We need not be afraid of loving in a sacrificial manner since we know that God will give us an eternal reward in heaven.
The word of God is more than mere letters and phrases on a page. It is alive, and was incarnate in Jesus (John 1:1-14). Life originates from life, and thus our spiritual life originates from the life that God's word provides. Our fleshly life was birthed from parents who were in the process of aging and decay, but the word of God will endure forever, and thus we can be assured that our spiritual life that springs from Him will likewise last eternally.
24 Peter quotes Isa 40:6-8 to emphasize the point that it has always been known that man is mortal but God's word endures forever. A meadow of fresh green grass is lovely, and provides food for livestock. However, in the heat of summer and the cold of winter the grass withers and goes dormant or dies. The works of man are compared to flowers of the field. No matter what people accomplish or what marvelous things we make, the memory of those accomplishments fade and our works decay and break.
25 Of all the things that people produce, words can last the longest. Words can change lives and shape civilizations. A word spoken to a child might be remembered well into old age, and if words are preserved in written form, they can be precisely repeated for many millennia. While the words of people can be very powerful and may last for several generations, they do not compare to the enduring truth of God's words, nor will the opinions of this world shape God's kingdom. Thus, the best that we can hope for, as the apostles did, is that God uses our words to bring people to believe His words, the Gospel of Christ, by which anyone can attain heaven. Most people base their lives on things that are perishable, but the Christian's trust must be placed in the eternal words of God (Mat 24:34-35).