Persecution can cause either growth or bitterness in the Christian life. It’s our response that determines the result.
In his first letter, Peter encourages believers struggling with persecution to conduct themselves courageously for the Person and program of Christ. They must keep both their character and conduct above reproach. Having been born again to a living hope, they are to imitate the Holy One who has called them. The fruit of that character will result in conduct rooted in honor and submission: citizens toward government; servants toward masters; wives toward husbands; husbands toward wives; and Christians toward one another.
Only after Peter explains the meaning of submission does he deal with the difficult area of suffering. Persecuted Christians are not to “think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (4:12). Instead they are to rejoice as partakers of the suffering of Christ. In fact, “let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (4:19). Only those who joyfully submit their lives to the good hand of God can manage such a supernatural response to a sometimes painful life.
Peter wrote his letter to Christians in the Black Sea coastal area. Evidently they were facing severe suffering and persecution because of their faith. Peter wanted them to know that they shouldn’t be surprised or dismayed if they faced opposition and persecution, for Jesus Himself certainly faced both. Indeed, believers should feel hope and joy whenever God asks them to share with Jesus in His suffering: “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (4:13).
This epistle begins with the phrase Petros apostolos Jesou Christou, “Peter, the apostle of Jesus Christ.” This is the basis of the early title Petrou A, the “First of Peter.”
Theme: Suffering is part of walking with and serving Jesus Christ, and it is not to be feared, but to be embraced.
Author: The apostle Peter.
Date: Probably in the early A.D. 60s, but certainly before the death of emperor Nero in A.D. 68. Nero had Peter executed.
Structure: Peter greets the recipients (1:1, 2), praises God for His salvation (1:3–12), then encourages his readers to honor God by living in a godly way (1:13–5:12). He ends his letter with a brief final greeting (5:13, 14).
Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005), 1 Pe.