1 & 2 Peter
2 PeterLesson #4
2 Peter 3 / With Anticipation
First Peter has the single focus of encouraging Christians to exhibit faithfulness under the pressure arising from persecution. The believers to whom Peter wrote were in the midst of such “fiery trials.” The culture in which they lived scorned their faith, criticized their morality, and mocked their hope. Peter calls on readers to respond to this pressure with a renewed commitment to live out the grace of God, both to please God and to bear witness to his grace.
Many people in the ancient world regarded Christians as strange, superstitious, and disloyal to Roman society. They gathered in secret, practiced strange rituals (such as the Lord’s Supper, widely misunderstood as involving bloody sacrifice), and practiced a countercultural lifestyle. They often refused to serve in the Roman army because they would not take an oath to the emperor. This refusal to go along with the prevailing culture created tensions even more than it does in the modern world. Christians were often discriminated against and accused of misbehavior and were even brought into court on trumped-up charges.
This is the situation that 1 Peter addresses. Believers were undergoing very difficult trials (1:6; 4:12), and non-Christians were saying evil things about them (4:4; see 3:16). The Christians were tempted to retaliate in kind and repay harsh words with harsh words. They were also tempted to compromise their godly lifestyle because of the grief it caused them.
Peter was well aware of these temptations, so his letter encourages Christians to view the accusations and unfair treatment as an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ. By following the example of their own Lord, who lived an exemplary life before all and refused to revile those who reviled him, Christians can practice a lifestyle of true evangelism.
The Setting of 1 Peter, early 60s AD. Peter was apparently in ROME toward the end of his life when he wrote this letter to encourage persecuted Christians in the provinces of PONTUS, GALATIA, CAPPADOCIA, ASIA, and BITHYNIA.
After a typical opening for a letter (1:1–2), Peter exhorts his readers in the first section (1:3–2:12) to regard their present temporary suffering as strengthening their faith and preparing them to receive salvation (1:3–9). This salvation is so great that prophets predicted it and angels investigate it (1:10–12). This gift of salvation should result in a life of holiness that recognizes the cost at which God purchased our salvation (1:13–21). The first section concludes with a call for love and patience toward fellow Christians (1:22–2:3) and a reminder of our status as the new covenant people of God (2:4–12).
The second part of the letter (2:13–3:12) exhorts Christians to live within recognized authority structures as a witness to a hostile world. Christians are to accept the authority of government (2:13–17), Christian slaves are to accept the authority of their masters (2:18–25), and Christian wives are to accept the authority of their husbands (3:1–6). Husbands are to respond by honoring their wives (3:7). This section ends with general exhortations to behave in a way that God rewards (3:8–12).
The third section (3:13–4:11) begins with a challenge to respond to social pressures with honorable and respectful behavior, even when it results in abuse (3:13–17). Peter reminds us that our hope of redemption is secure because of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension (3:18–22). Peter renews his call to abandon the ways and values of the world around us (4:1–6), and concludes with various exhortations (4:7–11).
The fourth section of the letter (4:12–5:11) opens with a final call to stand firm in the midst of suffering (4:12–19). Peter then concludes with a charge to elders (5:1–4), younger men (5:5), and the church at large (5:5–11). The letter ends with customary greetings (5:12–14).
New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), 1 Pe.