1 PeterRead Scripture
Peter’s first epistle was written to instruct and encourage believers how to live in a world in which they are strangers and aliens. Persecution, therefore, is to be expected. Suffering is inevitable. But knowing who we are in Christ and that our final inheritance is secure supplies the Christian with the strength to endure and live a godly life in the face of opposition.
Who Wrote 1 Peter?
Although the first verse of chapter one identifies the author of this epistle as “Peter,” there is considerable debate among scholars concerning who wrote 1 Peter.1 We know that he was an eyewitness of the sufferings of Jesus (1Pet 5:1) and was most likely residing in Rome when he wrote the letter (1Pet 5:13; “Babylon” being a cryptic reference to Rome), both of which are consistent with what we know of the apostle. This, together with the external evidence supporting Peter as the author, is enough to assure us that he is indeed its author. The polished Greek of the letter may be attributed to the fact that Peter made use of an amanuensis, Silvanus, so named in 1 Peter 5:12.
When Was 1 Peter Written?
Most agree that the epistle was written sometime in the mid-sixties, AD, perhaps as early as 62–63 before the outbreak of persecution by Nero.
To Whom Was the Letter Addressed?
Peter wrote to Christians living in the northwest region of Asia Minor, on the Black Sea, identified more specifically in 1 Peter 1:1 as “those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Considerable debate swirls around the question of whether the recipients were Jews or Gentiles. Some have pointed to Peter’s frequent use of the OT (1Pet 1:16, 24–25; 2:3, 6–10, 22; 3:10–12; 4:18; 5:5) as evidence that he directed this letter to an audience that was primarily Jewish. But others argue that his description of his audience as having lived in “ignorance” suggests a pagan, Gentile past. One must also ask if Peter would have described the ways of Judaism as “futile” (1Pet 1:18). The most balanced conclusion is suggested by Carson, Moo, and Morris:
“It seems that the writer is concerned neither with Jews nor Gentiles as such, but with those who in Christ have become the people of God. We need not doubt that most who came from the provinces named were Gentiles, although there would have been some Jewish converts. But the emphasis is on what they have become, not on what they were originally.”2
What Is the Theological Focus of 1 Peter?
Although this letter covers a wide range of themes, 1 Peter is decidedly Christocentric. Christians have been delivered from sin for “obedience to Jesus Christ” (1Pet 1:2). The resurrection of Jesus is the ground for our “living hope” (1Pet 1:3) and his return is the singular expectation of the believer for final deliverance from sin and corruption (1Pet 1:5, 7, 13). Only through the shedding of his “precious blood” do we find redemption (1Pet 1:19) and only on him as the “living stone” (1Pet 2:4) is the church being built. Jesus provides the pattern for how to respond to unjust persecution (1Pet 2:21–25). We are brought to God because “Christ”, our penal substitute, suffered once for sins, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1Pet 3:18). In his name, believers willingly endure insults and suffering (1Pet 4:14–16) and under his authority as “the chief Shepherd” (1Pet 5:4) that Elders govern the local church.
Although 1 Peter addresses a variety of issues relevant to Christian living, its primary purpose is to encourage Christians who are suffering for their faith. His aim is to remind them of the all-sufficiency of Christ to sustain them even when the persecution they endure is undeserved.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
— 1 Peter 2:21 ESV
I. Opening Salutation (1:1–2)
II. The Identity of the People of God (1:3–2:10)
A. God’s Great Mercy and the Salvation of his People (1:3–12)
1. The Hope and Joy of God’s Elect (1:3–9)
2. The Unique Privileges of God’s Elect (1:1 0–12)
B. The Call to Holiness as a Way of Life (1:13–2:3)
1. Be Holy as God is Holy (1:13–16)
2. Living in the Fear of God (1:17–21)
3. Loving One Another from a Pure Heart (1:22–25)
4. Strengthened and Nourished by the Word (2:1–3)
C. A Holy Priesthood, Declaring God’s Excellencies (2:4–10)
1. Spiritual Sacrifices unto Christ (2:4–8)
2. Chosen to Proclaim God’s Excellencies (2:9–10)
III. The Holiness of the People of God (2:11–4:11)
A. Honorable Conduct (2:11–12)
B. Submission to Authority for the Lord’s Sake (2:13–3:12)
1. Submission of all to Civil Authorities (2:13–17)
2. Submission of Servants to their Masters (2:18–25)
a. The Exhortation (2:18–20)
b. The Example (2:21–25)
3. Submission of Wives to their Husbands (3:1–6)
a. The Exhortation (3:1–4)
b. The Example (3:5–6)
4. Why Husbands Must Honor their Wives (3:7)
5. Brotherly Love and Self-Control (3:8–12)
C. Zeal for Good and God’s Promised Vindication (3:13–4:6)
1. When We Suffer for Doing Good (3:13–17)
2. The Suffering and Vindication of Christ (3:18–22)
3. The Suffering and Vindication of Christians (4:1–6)
a. Christ’s Example (4:1–2)
b. The Believer’s Former Life (4:3)
c. The Unbeliever’s Future Judgment (4:4–6)
D. Loving Others, Showing Hospitality, and Serving (4:7–11)
1. Love (4:7–8)
2. Hospitality (4:9)
3. Service (4:10–11)
IV. Suffering for the Sake of Christ (4:12–19)
A. Rejoicing in Suffering (4:12–14)
B. Suffering as a Christian and not as a Sinner (4:15–19)
V. Leadership and Life in the Local Church (5:1–11)
A. Leadership in the Local Church (5:1–5)
B. Life in the Local Church (5:6–9)
1. Humble Yourselves (5:6–7)
2. Resist the Devil (5:8–9)
C. God Promise to those who Suffer (5:10–11)
VI. Concluding Comments (5:12–14)
A. Standing Firm in the Grace of God (5:12)
B. Final Greetings (5:13–14)
Opening Salutation (1:1–2)
1:1 As an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” Peter makes it clear that he is authorized to represent Christ and to speak authoritatively on his behalf. Although the recipients of this letter are not called to be apostles, they are profoundly blessed as “elect exiles” in what we know as modern-day Turkey. As the “elect” they have been sovereignly chosen to inherit eternal life. Their status as “exiles” likely points more to their spiritual condition than to their social standing.3 All believers of every age are aliens in this world, whose true and eternal citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20).
1:2a Their election is explained in greater detail by three prepositional phrases. They were chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (cf. Rom 8:29; Eph 1:4; 2Tim 1:9; Rev 13:8; 17:8). This is more than mere knowledge in advance or some barren notion of pre-vision. To “know” in Scripture often speaks of covenant love and to set regard upon someone with delight and affection (see Gen 18:19; Exod 2:25; Ps 144:3; Jer 1:5; Hos 13:5; Matt 7:23). We might well translate “foreknow” as “forelove” in the sense that God determined in eternity past to set his sovereign and distinguishing affection on those who deserved only eternal death. The preposition kata suggests that it was in accordance with God’s pretemporal love that God chose a bride for his Son. Nothing is said of “faith” as the object of God’s foreknowledge. Rather, God foreknew or foreloved the sinner, and thus predestined them to salvation (see Rom 8:29).
This act of electing sinners to eternal life was “in the sanctification of the Spirit,” a reference most likely not to the progressive moral transformation of the believer but to the Spirit’s work in consecrating or setting apart the elect unto the Father as his own peculiar possession (see esp. 1Cor 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2Thes 2:13 for this notion of sanctification).
1:2b The third prepositional phrase is “for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” A single preposition governs both “obedience” and “sprinkling,” pointing us to the purpose of God’s electing love. No one can reasonably argue that sovereign, unconditional election justifies an antinomian lifestyle. God has chosen us precisely so that we would obey all that Jesus has commanded. The “sprinkling” of the blood of Jesus is a likely allusion to Exodus 24:3–8 where Moses initiates the Israelites into covenant with God. In like manner we have been brought into covenant relationship with God because of the redemptive efficacy of the blood of Christ.
The Identity of the People of God (1:3–2:10)
God’s Great Mercy and the Salvation of his People (1:3–12)
The Hope and Joy of God’s Elect (1:3–9)
1:3 This doxological outburst by Peter (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”) is the first of three in this epistle (see 1Pet 4:11; 5:11), and inaugurates what is in the Greek text one long sentence that does not conclude until verse 12. God is “blessed” because of “his great mercy” that led to our being “born again to a living hope.” The new or second birth is the miraculous work of the Spirit beneath the level of our conscious thought that imparts new life and accounts for our response of faith and repentance (see John 1:13; Eph 2:1–4; 2Cor 4:6). Being born again is not aimless. It has two goals: the impartation of a “living hope” (1:3c) and the bequeathing of an “inheritance” in heaven (1:4).
Our “hope” is more than wishful thinking, instead “hope” is the strong confidence that God will do what he has promised. The Christian hope is a “living” hope that will never die or fail to bring to pass what God has purposed. This hope can be described as “living” because it produces the fruit of a transformed life. This hope is only possible because of or “through” the “resurrection” of Jesus from the dead. Had Jesus remained in the grave, our hope would have died with him.
1:4–5 The content of our “inheritance” is not defined, but it is described in three ways: the inheritance is “imperishable” (it will never die or decay), “undefiled” (and thus not susceptible to sin or corruption), and “unfading” (which is to say, eternally beautiful and enthralling). We can be assured that it will be ours eternally because God is keeping it in heaven for us. But might we fail to persevere and thus fall short of the inheritance? No, for the God who has made the promise is the God who by his immeasurable power is guarding us by means of the faith that he himself sustains in our hearts (see Phil 1:6).
1:6–7 The antecedent of “this” in 1:6a is the gracious work of God by which we have been saved (1:3–5). Knowing and resting in God’s saving purpose is what enables the believer to “rejoice” in the midst of “various trials.” The phrase, “if necessary,” reminds us again that God in his infinite wisdom governs and oversees all of the challenges and suffering we endure. The reason for this is that such trials test and refine our faith, purifying it of all alien and superficial elements. This particular faith in God will redound to his “praise and glory and honor” when Jesus returns.
1:8 And of what does that “faith” consist? Faith that has survived the purifying fire of tribulation yields the fruit of “love” and unashamed, extravagant affection for Jesus, sight unseen. It also produces a vibrant belief in him and a “joy” that exceeds the capacity of our minds to contemplate and our mouths to articulate. It is truly “inexpressible” (ineffable) and “filled with glory.”
1:9 The consummation of this experience now is the “salvation” of our “souls,” a reference not merely to the immaterial aspect of our being but to the entirety of who we are (see 1Pet 3:20; 4:19).
The Unique Privileges of God’s Elect (1:10–12)
1:10–12 Peter expands on the glorious nature of our “salvation” with four descriptive phrases. First, this salvation was not an afterthought or merely a remedy for unanticipated failures on our part but was made known to the prophets of the old covenant through the revelatory work of the Spirit of Christ Jesus (see Rom 1:1–2; 16:25–27). Second, Peter summarizes our salvation with the one word that accounts for why we have received it: “grace.” Third, the basis of our experience of God’s saving grace are “the sufferings of Christ,” in both his life and death, and the glory of his resurrection and exaltation (described by Peter as “the subsequent glories”). Fourth, this salvation that we have heard by the Spirit-empowered preaching of the good news is so grand, so captivating and glorious, that it elicits the curiosity of the angels themselves.
The Call to Holiness as a Way of Life (1:13–2:3)
Be Holy as God is Holy (1:13–16)
1:13 There is significance in the fact that not one imperative or command appears in the first twelve verses of 1 Peter 1. The focus therein is on God’s merciful and gracious work in saving and preserving us for the glory that will come when Jesus returns. But Peter turns in 1:13 and following to the responsibilities of obedience that come to those who are the objects of God’s merciful work.
The transitional conjunction “therefore” with which 1:13 begins is a reminder that every exhortation that follows is grounded in God’s gracious work of salvation (1:1–12). We must never place the imperative before the indicative. God’s finished work (“done!”) issues in our faithful living (“do!”).
The two participles of attendant circumstance (as you are “preparing your minds for action” and while “being sober-minded”) are imperatival in force and are dependent on the command that we “set our hope” on the “grace” that will come when Jesus does. The former of these two participles is literally, “girding up the loins of your mind,” a reference to the gathering up of one’s free-flowing garment and tucking it into the belt to enable freedom of movement. The latter participle emphasizes the need for mental sobriety and disciplined thought.
1:14 Peter then strings together a series of exhortations concerning the kind of life we are to live. We are to “set our hope” on the return of Christ, which is to say, we must rivet our attention, undistracted, on him who is to come. Because we are “obedient children” we must not “be conformed to the passions” of our former ignorance. Before salvation we were immersed in “ignorance” of God’s truth and beauty, which in turn led to those sinful passions that kept us enslaved.
1:15–16 We must also “be holy” even as God is holy. This is not a promise of sinful perfection prior to the return of Christ, but a call to overcome those sinful “passions” (1:14b) that are inconsistent with the transcendent glory and righteousness of the God who called us.
Living in the Fear of God (1:17–21)
1:17 The call for holiness in the preceding paragraph is here reinforced with the reminder that the God whom we obey is also our “Father” who “judges impartially.” The “fear,” therefore, that must characterize our “conduct” is not being afraid of God or feeling anxious and uncertain about his commitment to us. Peter has in view humble reverence that responds to God in awe and utter dependence. This approach to Christian living is once again rooted in our identity as those in “exile,” an echo of the earlier reminder in 1:1 that we are but sojourners on this earth.
1:18–19 The participle “knowing” is probably causal in force, pointing us to the fact the knowledge of our having been “ransomed” with “the precious blood of Christ” is the reason or ground for our reverential obedience. To be “ransomed” (see Luke 24:21; Titus 2:14) or liberated from the “futile ways inherited” from one’s forefathers cannot be achieved by a payment of gold or silver, but only through the blood of a spotless and blameless lamb (cf. Exod 12:5; Lev 1:3–5; 22:17–25; Num 6:14; Heb 9:14), shed on the cross for hell-deserving sinners. As noted earlier, Peter’s reference to the “futile” way of life inherited from one’s forefathers strongly suggests that his audience was primarily (but not exclusively) Gentile. “The legacy that Peter is denouncing is Greco-Roman paganism and its associated unethical practices.”4
1:20 God’s purpose in providing a ransom for sinners was not an afterthought or a makeshift remedy. The God-man, Jesus, who paid the price was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” But the work of redemption took place in time, within human history, in what Peter calls “the last times,” a reference to the period inaugurated by the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ and extending until his return at the close of history (cf. Acts 2:17; 2Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2; Jas 5:3; 2Pet 3:3).
1:21 Only “through” Christ and his shed blood have we received the Holy Spirit, who in turn worked in us faith and repentance (cf. Eph 2:8–10; Acts 11:18). We know that his death was sufficient for our salvation because God “raised him from the dead.” The “glory” that Christ was given surely points to his exaltation to the right hand of the Father and the submission of all enemies beneath his feet (cf. 1Cor 15:25–28; Eph 1:20–23; Phil 3:20–21). The marvelous fruit of this gracious work of redemption is that our “faith and hope” are not in the transient and untrustworthy idols of this world, but “in God.”
Loving One Another from a Pure Heart (1:22–25)
1:22 The purification of our souls may be a reference to the progressive cleansing that the believer experiences through the work of the Holy Spirit. Others see here God’s act of consecrating the elect unto himself at the time of their conversion (cf. 1:2). In either case, “obedience to the truth” of the gospel is the only appropriate response, a key element of which is loving one another with sincerity and from the heart.
1:23–25 Because (“since”) we have been born again (cf. 1:3), our love must be earnest and not perfunctory or merely from a sense of duty. Nothing perishable or earthly in nature could account for the creation of spiritual life in an unbelieving heart. Only the seed of new life implanted through “the living and abiding word of God” could possibly account for this miracle. The “word” of God here is likely both the spoken word, earlier described as the preaching of “the good news” (1:12; and again, here in 1:25), and the written word, or Scripture (which is evident from his citation of Isa 40:6–8; cf. 2Pet 1:19–21; 3:15–16).
Strengthened and Nourished by the Word (2:1–3)
2:1–2 Essential to a life of holiness (1:15) is the avoidance of five attitudes: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. That each of these is contrary to “sincere brotherly love” (1:22) is evident from the transitional conjunction “so” with which 2:1 begins. We must “put away” all such sinful actions, a verb that often suggests the removal of one’s garments (cf. Rom 13:12; Eph 4:22, 25; Heb 12:1; Jas 1:21). In their place we must cultivate a longing for “the pure spiritual milk” of God’s revealed truth. The portrayal of believers as “newborn infants” is not an insult but applies to all Christians at every stage of spiritual development. Rather, the reference to an infant is a term of endearment that points the intimacy of our relation to God as Father (1:14–17).
2:3 “If indeed” (ei) is not Peter’s way of calling into question whether we have “tasted that the Lord is good” (cf. Ps 34:8). He assumes that our savoring of the sweetness of God’s saving grace in Jesus will serve as the motivation of expansive obedience as we “grow up into salvation” or increasing maturity in Christ.
A Holy Priesthood, Declaring God’s Excellencies (2:4–10)
Spiritual Sacrifices unto Christ (2:4–8)
Most of the struggles Christians face stem from a failure to embrace and enjoy their new identity in Christ. Peter directly addresses this issue in 2:4–8. Here we find that many of the titles and benefits predicated regarding Israel in the old covenant are applied to the Church, the new covenant people of God.
2:4–6 Although stones are literally inert, Jesus is described as the “living stone” or foundation of the “spiritual house” we know as the church. Being “rejected by men” does not undermine the fact that he is “chosen and precious” in the sight of God and must, therefore, be the same in our hearts’ estimation. Because believers are being built up spiritually on this glorious foundation, we too are like “living stones,” our purpose being to serve as a “holy priesthood” that offers “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The sacrifices of the old covenant were the blood of bulls and goats, whereas those of the church of the new covenant are the sacrifices “of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15). It is “through Jesus Christ,” which is to say, on the basis of the immeasurable worth of his person and work, that any such sacrifice is deemed acceptable and worthy of the God to whom it is offered.
Twice Peter describes Jesus as “chosen and precious” (2:4, 6), the cornerstone and foundation on which the one who believes in him builds his/her life. No shame or disappointment comes to those who vest their hope and eternal destiny in him.
2:7–8 “Honor” comes to those who believe in Jesus, even when they suffer rejection, persecution, and slander by those who do not believe. Somewhat paradoxically, the very stone rejected by the world, the stone that causes stumbling and offense in the hearts of those who reject him, is the sure and certain foundation for those who believe. This stumbling or unbelief at the gospel of Jesus was not unknown to God and poses no threat to his purposes, for it was something “they were destined to do.”
More literally, it is a disobedience “to which” they were appointed. Yet, God holds them accountable, for their unbelief was neither coerced nor constrained. The relationship between God’s sovereign predetermination and man’s moral accountability continues to challenge the best of minds, but neither can be sacrificed at the altar of the other.5
Chosen to Proclaim God’s Excellencies (2:9–10)
2:9 This section echoes much of the old covenant portrayal of and titles ascribed to Israel (cf. Exod 19:5–6; Deut 7:6; 14:2; Isa 43:20–21; Hos 2:23). The church is “a chosen race,” yet one that has nothing to with ethnicity, as faith alone is the entrance requirement. Every individual of every ethnicity who believes is included. Earlier Peter referred to the church as a “holy priesthood” (2:5). Here, we discover that the priesthood is a “royal priesthood” because believers have come under the lordship of a King. Contrary to what many believe, no geo-political entity on earth is a “holy nation.” That is reserved for the church of Jesus Christ, those who are God’s “own possession.”
The purpose for this exalted status is so that the church may declare and make known “the excellencies” of the God who delivered sinners from spiritual blindness into the light of understanding and delight in all that God is. The purpose of our salvation, therefore, is worship! God’s majesty, beauty, and breathtaking attributes (“excellencies”) are the focus of our adoration and devotion.
2:10 Here, Peter adapts the story of Hosea and Gomer and applies it to the church (cf. Hos 1:6, 9; 2:4, 23). Such is the power of saving grace that those who were by nature outcasts and alone (“not a people”) have now, because of God’s mercy toward them, become “God’s” very own “people.”
The Holiness of the People of God (2:11–4:11)
Honorable Conduct (2:11–12)
2:11 Because God’s people are “sojourners and exiles” on this earth, they must labor in the power of the Spirit to “abstain from the passions of the flesh.” Such passions belong to this world, Christians do not. Such “passions” would encompass everything from lust to greed, from envy to malice, from pride to gossip (cf. 2:1). They are not “passions” that are beyond our control but through God’s gracious enabling can be defeated and resisted. This defiance of fleshly passions is a war that, if ignored, poses a threat to the very well-being of our souls.
2:12 Honorable, attractive, beautiful (the force behind Peter’s use of kalos) conduct in the presence of the unbelieving world may provoke opposition, but it also may be the way in which they recognize God’s presence in us and glorify God when Christ returns (“the day of visitation” likely refers to the Parousia; see 1:5, 7, 13; 4:13).
Submission to Authority for the Lord’s Sake (2:13–3:12)
Submission of all to Civil Authorities (2:13–17)
Some believe that what follows in 2:13–3:7 is a standard “household” code (cf. Eph 5:21–6:9; Col 3:18–4:1; Titus 3:1–2) that delineates the conduct expected of its members.
The imperative “be subject” (hypotassō) governs the entire paragraph down through verse 17. Here Peter calls for submission to “every human creation” or “institution”, more specifically those who exert governmental authority: emperors (or “kings”) and governors. Their goal is to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good (cf. Rom 13:1–5). This is to be done “for the Lord’s sake” (literally, “on account of the Lord”) so that he might be honored among his people. The ultimate purpose for such obedience is the same we saw in 2:12, to silence their ignorant slander and to glorify God. We must never make use of our blood-bought freedom to justify rebellion against those duly appointed by God to exercise governmental authority.
All four imperatives in 2:17 are second person plurals, thereby encompassing all believers. No one is exempt. To “fear God” and “honor the emperor” may seem difficult, especially in our socially and politically chaotic and divisive society, but Peter does not concede any exceptions to his command.
Submission of Servants to their Masters (2:18–25)
2:18 Peter first introduced the theme of submission to rightful authority in 2:13. Here he picks up on it yet again and urges “servants” to be “subject” to their “masters.” The “respect” that is to characterize their willing submission is probably to God (see 2:13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, where Peter grounds his exhortation in the believer’s commitment to God). Whereas the world would require this only in response to “the good and gentle,” Christians are called on to respond appropriately even to “the unjust.”
2:19–20 Such respectful submission is “a gracious thing,” which is to say, something that elicits divine blessing. Peter has in mind those who place a higher value on God’s approval than on earthly vindication. After all, there is nothing extraordinary in suffering provoked by one’s sin (“what credit is it?”), but to endure unjust suffering, as Christ did, is especially pleasing to God. When the unbeliever sees the believer persevere under undeserved mistreatment, he is compelled to ask what kind of God could sustain this depth of devotion.
2:21–23 The “for” with which verse 21 opens is designed to ground or root obedience to the previous instruction (2:18–20) in the fact that such is our calling. Indeed, Christ himself also suffered in this way precisely to give us “an example” of how to live. The suffering of the Christian is not redemptive but serves to draw attention to the One whose suffering alone atoned for sin. It was the sinlessness of Jesus (cf. Isa 53:9; 1Pet 1:19; 3:18) that magnified the grace of what he endured on our behalf. When we are tempted to “revile” those who mistreat us or “threaten” them with harm, we must recall how Jesus instead entrusted him to God’s care and ultimate vindication.
2:24–25 What preeminently sets apart the suffering of Christ from ours is that in his death on the cross he did not pay the price for his own sin but “bore” ours “in his body on the tree.” To be more theologically precise, he bore and satisfied the wrath of God that our sin provoked. His death, however, was designed to accomplish more than our deliverance from divine judgment. It was also to enable us to “die to sin and live to righteousness.”
The “healing” that the wounds of Christ procured (cf. Isa 53:5) is primarily a reference to the way in which his redemptive work enabled us to reverse course from our sinful “straying” and be reconciled to God, “the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls. Needless to say, one day this “healing” will extend fully and irreversibly to our physical bodies as well, when Christ will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:21a; cf. 1Jn 3:1–3).
Submission of Wives to their Husbands (3:1–6)
3:1–4 That wives in particular, and not women in general, are Peter’s focus is evident from his use of idiois, “your own” husbands. The imperative in 2:13 (“be subject”) still governs the flow of Peter’s argument, as both the opening word “likewise” and the participial form of hypotassō attest. The hope is that by the wife’s “respectful and pure conduct” the unbelieving husband may come to saving faith. Neither by means of prolonged verbal argumentation nor by ostentatious physical beauty will the unbelieving husband be won to Christ, but through the hidden beauty of her “gentle and quiet spirit.”
3:5–6 This spiritual strategy of living with an unregenerate spouse is best seen in the saints of the old covenant, specifically Sarah (but also Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah). Their “submission” was not that of cowering subservience, as if Sarah or any female is in any way inferior to her husband but came from their hope “in God.” In calling Abraham “lord,” Sarah used a term of respect (not an affirmation of deity), similar to our word of address, “Sir.” To “do good” and “not fear” are two ways in which they testify to the reality of being Sarah’s “children” (the latter highlighting their status in the covenant community of those who believe).
Why Husbands must Honor their Wives (3:7)
3:7 Husbands also (“likewise”) have an essential responsibility in the marriage relationship. To live with one’s wife “in an understanding way” (more literally, “according to knowledge”) points to the man’s joyful grasp that she is “the weaker vessel.” This controversial phrase does not suggest any intellectual, moral, or spiritual deficiency in women but refers to their weaker physical stature and perhaps the vulnerability they experience in society at large. This reality not only calls for the husband to “honor” his wife but especially her equal status as one who by God’s grace will inherit eternal life. The vital importance of a husband’s honoring and cherishing his wife in this way is seen in the fact that to do otherwise is to ensure that one’s prayers will not be heard or answered by God (cf. 3:12).
Brotherly Love and Self-Control (3:8–12)
3:8 “Finally” does not suggest an end to the epistle but is Peter’s way of concluding the list of responsibilities contained in the “household code” that began in 2:13.
By “unity of mind” he envisions a common purpose as governed by the gospel (cf. Rom 15:5–7: 1Cor 1:10; 2Cor 13:11; Phil 2:1–4; 4:2), not a uniformity of thought on all possible theological issues. The word “sympathy” is found only here in the NT and suggests a capacity to understand the needs of others and show compassion for them. “Brotherly love” (philadelphoi) and a “tender heart” are closely related affections within the community of faith. Again, “a humble mind” (tapeinophrones) translates a word found only here in the NT, but one closely related to other texts where humility is in view (cf. Acts 20:19; Eph 4:2; Phil 2:3; Col 2:18, 23; 3:12; 1Pet 5:5).
3:9–12 Just as Jesus himself “did not revile in return” (2:23) when persecuted and slandered, so too we must “bless” those who oppose us if we hope to “obtain a blessing” from God. To support this exhortation, Peter cites Psalm 34:12–16, where David insists that God will not bless those who exact verbal revenge or engage in deceitful speech. Instead, God takes special note of those who live righteously and is more likely to hear their prayers. As in 3:7, Peter connects answered prayer to righteous, humble obedience.
Zeal for Good and God’s Promised Vindication (3:13–4:6)
When We Suffer for Doing Good (3:13–17)
3:13–15 The “harm” we suffer for doing good again highlights the virtual certainty that Christians who pursue righteousness will face hostile opposition. But blessing awaits those who live fearlessly for Christ (cf. Matt 5:10). The alternative to being “troubled” is to “honor” Christ the Lord as holy, unique, transcendently glorious, and alone worthy of our heart’s devotion. We do this in many ways, but here Peter highlights the importance of providing a “defense” (apologian) for why Christ alone is the object of our hope. One must not do this angrily or arrogantly, but “with gentleness and respect.” The latter term may be rendered “fear” and point not so much to our courage in the face of opposition but to reverence for God himself.
3:16–17 We must be diligent to ensure that the reason we are slandered and reviled is because of our “good behavior” stemming from a “good conscience” rather than for any evil or sin we may have committed. The reference to “God’s will” is a reminder that, contrary to much errant teaching in today’s church, it is often our heavenly Father’s purpose that we honor him by sustained devotion in the midst of undeserved suffering.
The Suffering and Vindication of Christ (3:18–22)
3:18 This paragraph is notoriously difficult and controversial. Its primary thrust is to cite the suffering and ultimate victory of Jesus as a rationale for why his followers should embrace undeserved suffering (“also”, kai). Unlike the sacrifices repeatedly offered during the time of the old covenant, Jesus made atonement for sin “once” (hapax), thereby testifying to the complete sufficiency of his death. He offered himself, the “righteous” one, as a substitutionary (“for”) sacrifice for the “unrighteous” (us). His goal in this was that we might get God!
Space does not permit an extensive response to alternative theories, so I will simply articulate what I believe Peter is saying. The contrast in view between “the flesh” in which Christ was “put to death” and the “spirit” in which he was made alive is “between Christ’s death in the natural sphere, and his risen life in the eternal, spiritual sphere. Thus, the second phrase [“made alive in the spirit”] does not refer to Christ disembodied, but to Christ risen to life on a new plane.”6 Therefore, to be “made alive in the spirit” does not refer to an experience of Jesus prior to his resurrection, as if between his death and resurrection he entered into some intermediate, disembodied state in Hades. The second half of 3:18, simply put, describes his death and resurrection.
3:19–20 The relative clause, “in which” that opens this verse has as its antecedent the “spirit” of 3:18b. It follows that 3:19 portrays the experience of Christ subsequent to his resurrection, not before it. Contrary to widespread belief, the verb translated “went” does not refer to a “descent” into hell or Hades but is the standard Greek verb for “to go” (poreuomai). In fact, it appears yet again in 3:22 (“has gone”) to describe the “ascent” of Christ into heaven.
The “spirits in prison” to which Christ made proclamation are not the spirits of human beings who have died physically, supposedly those people who rebelled in the days of Noah by ridiculing his building of the ark. These “spirits” are the rebellious angels or demons who lusted after female humans (Gen 6:1–5; cf. 2Pet 2:4; Jude 6) and were consigned by God to “prison” in advance of the final judgment.7 It was to these that Christ proclaimed his victory and their defeat,8 most likely at the time of his ascension and exaltation to the right hand of the Father (3:22). The main point, says France, “is that there is no mention of going down, or of Sheol or Hades (which is never called phylakē [prison] in biblical literature). Christ went to the prison of the fallen angels, not to the abode of the dead, and the two are never equated.”9
If one asks what possible relevance this might have for those enduring persecution in the first century, or in any century, for that matter, France explains:
“They might be called to endure the worst that anti-Christian prejudice could inflict. But even then they could be assured that their pagan opponents, and, more important, the spiritual powers of evil that stood behind them and directed them, were not outside Christ’s control: they were already defeated, awaiting final punishment. Christ had openly triumphed over them. Here is real comfort and strength for the persecuted church which took very seriously the reality and power of spiritual forces.”10
Peter’s reference to the “spirits” that disobeyed at the time of the great flood provides the link to his discussion of Noah in 3:20–21. Just as the readers of this letter were likely few in number, only eight survived the flood that engulfed the earth. And in much the same way as Noah and his family were saved “through” or by means of water, so also Peter’s audience was saved by means of the water of baptism. Thus, the experience of Noah, his family, and the waters of the great flood constituted a type of which Peter’s recipients and their baptism are the antitype.
3:21–22 Peter is quick to explain in what sense baptism “saves” and in what sense it does not. The physical action of the water on the body accomplishes nothing of a spiritual nature. Baptism saves only in the sense in which it provides the occasion for an “appeal to God for a good conscience.” The word rendered “appeal” by the ESV could also be translated, “pledge.” When baptized, the believer appeals to God on the basis of or “through” the resurrection of Jesus, or perhaps baptism is itself the pledge by which the believer makes known his/her commitment to Christ as Lord. In either case, the assurance Peter provides is that they are united to Christ by faith (to which baptism bears witness), he to whom all evil powers of opposition have been subjected. The believer’s baptism is thus a vivid reminder of the victory that is ours through the One who is now “at the right hand of God.”
The Suffering and Vindication of Christians (4:1–6)
4:1–2 The reality of Christ’s suffering is the basis for Peter’s appeal that his followers “arm themselves” for the same experience, not with military weaponry but a mindset that is ready to follow the example of one’s Lord. Those who do so have “ceased from sin,” not in the sense of having attained perfection but having decisively broken with their former ways and resolved to embrace the will of God rather than succumb to their fleshly passions.
4:3 Those “passions” include such things as “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” This is the sort of behavior characteristic of unbelievers (“Gentiles”). The time is long since passed for Christians to live in this way. To put it in modern terms, enough is enough!
The Unbeliever’s Future Judgment (4:4–6)
4:4 No believer should expect to be congratulated by the world for the decision not to “join” them in this “flood of debauchery.” This torrent of sinful behavior by the unbeliever will only lead them to “malign” (lit., “blaspheme”), slander, and ostracize the followers of Jesus.
4:5–6 There is no need for the believer to retaliate, as God himself will hold their persecutors accountable on the day when he judges both the living and the dead. Indeed, this is why the gospel was preached to Christians who are now dead. Peter is not describing Jesus preaching the gospel to the unbelieving dead during the time between his own death and resurrection, as if to provide them with a second chance to be saved. The “dead” of 4:6 are those believers who are dead at the time of Peter’s writing this letter. They heard the gospel while still alive and believed. Although they were judged or evaluated by human standards (“in the flesh”) while physically alive, they live in the heavenly realm, literally, “according to God,” that is to say, in accordance with his judgment. Mark Dubis sums it up well:
“On the one hand, unbelievers have judged Christians in this mortal life as they have sinfully seen fit; on the other hand, God will also act as he sees fit, vindicating believers through resurrection by the Spirit in the life of the world to come.”11
Loving Others, Showing Hospitality, and Serving (4:7–11)
4:7–8 What, then, should a believer do if “the end of all things” is “at hand”? Peter is quick with an answer, reminding us that the reality of Christ’s return should never lead to passivity or withdrawal but practical righteousness. That righteousness is multifaceted, but here Peter highlights five distinct expressions of it. We are to be “self-controlled and sober-minded” in order that our prayers will be focused and effective. We must “keep loving one another earnestly,” an echo of his earlier exhortation in 1:22. The importance of love is seen in that when it flourishes, we are not so easily offended and are quick to forgive (the most likely meaning of how love “covers a multitude of sins”).
4:9–11 The nearness of the “end” should also motivate us to show hospitality with joy, not “grumbling.” The end of days is a powerful incentive to “serve one another” in the power of whatever spiritual gift(s) God has graciously bestowed (cf. 1Cor 12:7–10). Whether we have gifts that serve others or speak truth and encouragement to their hearts, it is all done “by the strength that God supplies” (cf. 1Cor 12:6) so that he, not we, might be glorified. Indeed, “in everything” and not just through the exercise of spiritual gifts, God is to be praised.
Suffering for the Sake of Christ (4:12–19)
Rejoicing in Suffering (4:12–14)
4:12–13 Peter’s description of his readers as “beloved” is designed to remind them that their suffering is no indication of God’s displeasure or rejection of them. Persecution is to be expected. It should never be thought of as a “strange” or unexpected disadvantage. God’s design in it is that the believer be tested, a point raised earlier by Peter to encourage perseverance (see 1:6–7). The exhortation to “rejoice” is surely Peter’s commentary on the words of Jesus 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” (Matt 5:11–12a). This, says Peter, is so that we may also rejoice when the glory of Christ is revealed at his second coming. To “share Christ’s sufferings” is not to contribute to the redemption that he accomplished by means of them but is the inevitable consequence of identifying with Christ and thereby provoking the world’s hostility (cf. John 15:18–21).
4:14 In addition to the joy that comes to those who humbly endure unjust persecution, Peter assures his readers that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon” them. He means either that an extraordinary anointing of the Spirit comes to those who suffer in this manner, in order to energize their endurance, or that the glory yet to come when Christ returns has already entered into their experience ahead of that day.
Suffering as a Christian and not as a Sinner (4:15–19)
4:15–16 Jesus made it clear that our suffering must not be for sins committed (such as murder, theft, and meddling), but only “for righteousness’ sake” (Matt 5:10), on “account” of him (Matt 5:11), and because one is a “Christian.”12 There is no shame in this sort of suffering, but rather the opportunity to glorify God through faithful endurance.
4:17–18 The “for” with which 4:17 begins likely encompasses all manner of suffering described in 4:12–16. The “judgment” (krima) in view is disciplinary, not punitive, and is designed to refine and sanctify the heart of the believer. Peter then makes use of an a fortiori argument: from the lesser to the greater. In other words, if those who will share Christ’s glory at his return are themselves purified by suffering, the outcome for those who disobey the gospel will be immeasurably more severe.
The word “scarcely” is not suggesting that God finds it a challenge to save his people. His point in citing Proverbs 11:21 is to remind us that the pathway into eternal glory is narrow and entails constant opposition, as well as often painful discipline. The logic of his argument is again inescapable: If even God’s children must suffer discipline for their sin, how much more will it be true of those who hate God and do not obey the gospel?
4:19 Peter again makes it clear that suffering, be it at the hands of the unbeliever or from a loving God as discipline, is “according to God’s will.” Just as Jesus, while suffering, entrusted himself to the goodness and purpose of his Father (2:23), so too must we commit ourselves into the hands of “a faithful Creator.”
Leadership and Life in the Local Church (5:1–11)
Leadership in the Local Church (5:1–5)
5:1 All that Peter has said in the first four chapters must transpire for the individual within the context of community in the local church, under the loving leadership and authority of Elders (cf. Acts 11:29–30; 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5, 7; Jas 5:14). These “elders” are themselves likely to be the first to encounter the suffering described in 4:12–19, as the connecting word “so” would suggest. In order to identify with them and empathize with their fears and the temptations they face, he reminds them that he, too, is an elder. As such he will, with them, partake of the glory that comes to those who faithfully endure. Peter is not here claiming that he visually witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus but that he has faithfully borne witness to what Christ endured (cf. Rev 2:13; 11:3; 17:6).
5:2–3 All elders are responsible to “shepherd” or “pastor” the flock of God (Acts 20:28) as undershepherds who serve “the chief Shepherd, (5:4), Jesus. Peter’s focus is on the manner in which these men are to discharge their responsibilities. He does this by means of three contrasting pairs that highlight both what is appropriate and inappropriate in their exercise of oversight.
First, it must not be done “under compulsion,” but gladly and willingly, from a heart that delights in the task at hand. They are to do this, literally, “according to God,” consistently with how he has made this task known in Scripture. Second, elders must never be motivated by monetary gain. This does not mean they should never be paid (see 1Tim 5:17–18) but that financial enlargement should not be the driving force in their hearts. Third, they must never domineer or bully the sheep of God’s flock, but rather set an example for others to follow. Elders must never exploit their authority to lord it over those in their charge but serve others even as the “chief Shepherd” (cf. 1Pet 2:25; Heb 13:20) has served them.
5:4 Although many Christians are nervous when the subject of rewards is raised, Peter does not hesitate to urge local church elders to be faithful in the discharge of their responsibilities in order that they might “receive the unfading crown of glory” when Christ returns. While some think this is a reference to the consummation of salvation (i.e., glorification), I suspect that Peter is referring to a specific reward that will be granted to pastors who build faithfully on the foundation of Christ himself (cf. 1Cor 3:10–15; 9:25; 2Cor 5:10; 2Tim 4:8).
5:5 Once again Peter employs the language of submission to rightful authority, here encouraging “younger” men to “be subject” to the elders. There is likely in this admonition a concern for the impetuous and immature tendencies of those who are younger in the faith. In any case, what follows surely applies to all believers. We must labor to “clothe” ourselves with “humility” toward one another. The imagery is of one who adorns himself/herself with proper attire. In this case, the clothing Peter has in mind is not with a robe or coat but the sort of humility that invites an even greater bestowal from God of his grace. To think that the omnipotent God of the universe might “oppose” a mere finite, human being, is cause for serious reflection and a commitment to humility at all costs.
Life in the Local Church (5:6–9)
Humble Yourselves (5:6–7)
5:6–7 It was not enough for Peter to say it once, so he repeats himself in his appeal for humility. And again, he mentions the reward or consequence that follows self-effacing obedience: God will “exalt” you. The means by which we humble ourselves is by “casting” all our “anxieties on him.” The participle is instrumental in force, telling us how this should be done. If one should need additional motivation to heed Peter’s counsel, he provides it with the reminder that although God rules with a “mighty hand” he is also tenderhearted and compassionate toward his people. Indeed, “he cares for you.”
Resist the Devil (5:8–9)
5:8 It would be a grave mistake to think that humility and entrusting oneself to God entails passivity or inactivity. Two imperatives follow that refute any such notion: “be sober-minded” and “be watchful.” This is especially urgent given the nefarious intentions of our “adversary the devil.” The word “adversary” points to the destructive opposition that Satan brings to bear against all of God’s people. Satan is here called “the devil,” more literally, the slanderer. His evil aim is accentuated by Peter’s speaking of him as if he were a “roaring lion” who “prowls” around seeking someone to devour. This devouring does not mean Satan can utterly consume the believer, so as to lose one’s salvation, but that he can undermine our confidence in God’s goodness by means of the unjust suffering that all believers are expected to endure.
5:9 Our responsibility is to “resist” him, ostensibly by taking advantage of the armor that God supplies (cf. Eph 6:10–17). It is also a boost to the believer’s defiance of the devil to recall that they do not experience this assault alone. Brothers and sisters in Christ “throughout the world” share the same calling and are facing similar attacks.
God’s Promise to those who Suffer (5:10–11)
5:10 It is all too easy to think that a God who would permit his children to suffer in this way is less than good and gracious. So, Peter quickly reminds his readers that “the God of all grace” will “himself” (personally) fulfill his call on our lives. He has appointed us to “eternal glory in Christ” and will not allow the brevity of our suffering in this life (observe his assurance that we only suffer “a little while”) to derail our eternal destiny.
What, specifically, will God do to ensure our ultimate victory? He will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us. To “restore” is to repair whatever damage may have been inflicted. To “confirm” is to establish immovable and immutable our relationship with him. To “strengthen” (a verb used only here in the NT) is to supply us with the power essential for endurance. And to “establish” is to secure us firmly on the foundation of our faith, Jesus Christ.
5:11 Here, Peter revisits in a slightly shortened form the doxology of 4:11. The apostle wants his readers to know that our God is omnipotent, exercising unimpeachable “dominion” over our adversary, the devil. On this we can bank our souls. Amen!
Concluding Comments (5:12–14)
Standing Firm in the Grace of God (5:12)
5:12 The preposition translated “by” may also be rendered “through” (dia with the genitive). It raises the question of whether Silvanus or Silas (most likely the same man mentioned in Paul’s letters; see 2Cor 1:19; 1Thes 1:1; 2Thes 1:1) merely carried the letter from Peter to its recipients or was himself the recording secretary or amanuensis employed by Peter.
Daniel Wallace contends that Silvanus was the amanuensis who accounts for the exceptional Greek in the letter.13 If so, he would have been given considerable latitude by Peter in its composition. But if Silvanus was Peter’s secretary, why is there no greeting directly from him (as we find to be the case with Tertius in Rom 16:22)? In the final analysis, we may never know what role Silvanus may have played.
In any case, Peter takes full responsibility for the content of the letter, declaring that he has “written briefly,” to exhort them and to make known “that this is the true grace of God.” The antecedent of “this” is probably the entire letter and not just the immediately preceding context. Peter’s call for everyone to “stand firm” in it is one final appeal to take seriously every exhortation and truth contained in the letter.
Final Greetings (5:13–14)
5:13 Although the apostle Peter was indeed married (see Matt 8:14; 1Cor 9:3–6), the “she” who sends her greetings is not his wife but is likely the entire congregation of believers present with Peter as he writes. This body of believers, like all others, has been “chosen” or elected by God (see 1:1).
The reference to “Babylon” is probably a cryptic or coded way of describing Rome. In this way Peter is able yet again to identify with is readers as one who is but an “exile” and “alien” on this earth. Like them, he writes from a place that is not his ultimate home. “Mark” is with him, no doubt a reference to his spiritual child who himself would author one of our four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.
5:14 The “kiss of love” was a standard sign of affection within the family of God (cf. Rom 16:16; 1Cor 16:20; 2Cor 13:12; 1Thes 5:26), of which the contemporary Western handshake is, admittedly, an inadequate imitation.
The prayerful impartation of “peace” in the final sentence is probably due to the many references to persecution, suffering, and turmoil that Peter’s audience is facing. This, then, is no literary formality but a heartfelt desire of the apostle that they might genuinely experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7).
Achtemeier, Paul J. 1 Peter. Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.
Beale, G. K. and Carson, D. A. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
Carson, D. A., Moo, Douglas J., and Morris, Leon. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Clowney, Edmund. The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, ed. J. R. W. Stott, The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988.
Davids, Peter H. The First Epistle of Peter. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
Doriani, Daniel M. 1 Peter. Reformed Expository Commentary. Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2014.
Dubis, Mark. 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010.
Elliott, John H. 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday, 2000.
Feldmeier, Reinhard. The First Letter of Peter: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Translated by Peter H. Davids. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008.
Forbes, Greg W. 1 Peter: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.
Grudem, Wayne A. The First Epistle of Peter: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.
Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1970.
Helm, David R. 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008.
Jobes, Karen H. 1 Peter. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
Jobes, Karen H. Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
Keener, Craig S. 1 Peter: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021.
McKnight, Scot. 1 Peter. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.
Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word Books, 1988.
Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.
Selwyn, Edward Gordon. The First Epistle of St. Peter. London: The MacMillan Press, 1977.
Storms, Sam. 1 Peter. ESV Expository Commentary, Vol. XII. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018.
Witherington III, Ben. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1–2 Peter. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2007.
Endnotes & Permissions
1. Thomas R. Schreiner has provided a persuasive case for Petrine authorship and responds not only to virtually all of counter arguments but also to the claim for pseudonymity. See 1, 2 Peter, Jude NAC (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 22–36.
2. D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 425.
3. The most rigorous defense of the view that Peter is describing their political status as foreigners in the Dispersion is given by John H. Elliott, 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
4. Greg W. Forbes, 1 Peter: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (Nashville: B&H, 2014), 43.
5. The best treatment of the relationship between God’s sovereign, pre-temporal purpose and the moral responsibility of man is the excellent work by Scott Christenson, What about Free Will? Reconciling our Choices with God’s Sovereignty (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2016). For a helpful treatment of this particular text in 1 Peter, see Wayne Grudem, The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 105–10.
6. R. T. France, “Exegesis in Practice: Two Examples,” in New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods, ed. I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 267.
7. Schreiner provides an excellent defense of this interpretation in his 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 184–90.
8. The proclamation to these rebellious “spirits” was not the presentation of the gospel, as if Christ was giving an opportunity or second chance for salvation, but the making known of their judgment and definitive subjugation (cf. 1Pet 3:22; Eph 1:20–22; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14).
9. France, “Exegesis in Practice,” 271.
10. Ibid., 272.
11. Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 138.
12. The name “Christian” (found only three times in the NT) was not typically used by believers of themselves but was a designation given to them by others (cf. Acts 11:26; 26:28).
This commentary is part of The Gospel Coalition Bible Commentary series (general editor, Phil Thompson). This commentary is freely available under Creative Commons License with Attribution-ShareAlike, allowing users to share it in other mediums/formats and adapt/translate the content as long as an attribution link, indication of changes, and the same Creative Commons License applies to that material. If you are interested in translating our content or are interested in joining our community of translators, please reach out to us.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright © 2000; 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This edition (version 1.0) was published 06/24/2021 and may be cited in print works as follows: Storms, Sam. 1 Peter. TGCBC. Austin, TX: The Gospel Coalition, 2021.
This work is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
1 Peter 1
1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time1 the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Called to Be Holy
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,2 and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.