Updated: Apr 17
lesson one: 1 Peter 1:1-2
We are beginning a new series as we explore the letter of 1 Peter together. 1 Peter is a circular letter. It was written to churches that were scattered throughout the region of Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey.
1 Peter 1:1 (NIV)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia
These Christians faced hostility and harassment because of their faith in Jesus (2:12, 3:16, 4:16). With the help of Silas (5:12), Peter wrote to encourage these Christians in their suffering. As modern readers of this letter, we may ask, "How should we live in our culture?" This is a question the church has had to ask throughout its entire life. In the letter of 1 Peter, we find godly wisdom as we seek to answer this question.
One of Jesus' first disciples was Simon. Following Simons' confession of Jesus (Matt. 16:18-19), Jesus changed his name to Peter (Πέτρος - petros), meaning "rock." Peter became a leader in the Church at Jerusalem and guided the early church for many years (Acts 1-10). However, Peter's ministry was not limited to Christians in Jerusalem. Later, Peter received a vision from the Lord as he was called to the household of Cornelius (Acts 10). It was here Peter understood the good news of Jesus was for all people.
Acts 10:34–35 (NIV)
Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
The letter of 1 Peter was written later in the ministry of Peter to the broader Roman world.
The style of 1 Peter follows a traditional style of ancient letter writing. It contains a formal greeting (1 Pet. 1:1-2) and closing (1 Pet. 5:12-14). Between the opening and closing, Peter frames the central message of his letter.
Letter writing was an art form. I remember when I was in school, we learned to write different types of letters. We learned about business letters, as well as formal and informal letters. Older generations may remember "Letters to the Editor" printed in newspapers.
With the advancement of email and text messages or message apps, some would argue we have lost much of the art of ancient letter writing.
1 Peter is a very well-thought-out and penned letter. Reading through the letter, you will discover it's masterfully written. After Peter's greeting (1 Pet. 1:1-2), Peter moves to a song of praise (1:3-13). In this movement of praise, we are introduced to key themes of the letter, themes such as salvation, hope, and joy. Themes Peter will unpack and explore deeper in his letter as he moves forward.
Peter demonstrates the importance of faith, holiness, and love for one another as crucial aspects of the Christian life.
The Family of Abraham
Written to a larger audience throughout Asia Minor, Peter wants these Christians (and us) to understand they are part of God's story. From the onset of his greeting, Peter pulls these Christians into the story of God's family. Notice how he does this:
1 Peter 1:1–2 (NIV)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Peter uses language associated with Abraham and Israel as he describes Christians.
Chosen By God
Genesis 18:17–19 (NIV)
Then the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.
God chose Abraham to be a great nation. Abraham was to direct his household to keep the way of the Lord by honoring the Lord. This is also the language of Israel, chosen and special to God.
Isaiah 41:8–10 (NIV)
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
The theme of exiles and strangers is a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures. For example, after the death of Abraham's wife, Sarah, Abraham stated that he was a "foreigner and stranger" (Gen. 23:4). Israel was later exiled into Babylonian captivity.
By adopting these keywords, Peter identifies the scattered Christians he is writing to with the family of Abraham and Isreal. He wants them to identify with God's larger story and see themselves as members of God's family. God's family has often been foreigners and strangers—exiled people without a home who are often mistreated and subject to hardships. The hope for Israel was in the One who was to redeem and restore them as they looked forward to their true home.
As the family of God, scattered throughout the region, Christians share a living hope (1 Pet. 1:4). They are a people, like Israel, journeying as they look forward in hope to their true home.
Bridging The Context
As we consider the context of 1 Peter, what key points can we take away from this lesson?
a. When I was younger, I struggled with my identity, my family history. Who I was and what my purpose was supposed to be. When I realized that in Christ, I was part of a larger story, a larger people, I began to find my identity in His church and with His people. This identity shaped my purpose and direction.
As Christians, we are many different things and have many different relationships. We may be a wife, husband, mother, father, or child. We are co-workers, sports fans, movie or music lovers, and book readers. All of these, in part, shape who we are. However, as Christians, foremost who we are is the people of God, His church. This identity should shape all of the other relationships we share. As a Christian, I need to find my identity in Christ and His family.
b. Having our identity in Christ, we may find that our culture often runs counter to the direction we are headed. Running counter-culture will lead to hardships and trials. Peter will talk about suffering and how this ultimately points to Jesus, who suffered on our behalf (1 Peter 2:11-25). As Christians, amid difficulties and hardships, we need to rejoice, not in our trials, but in the hope of our salvation as we participate in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:12-13). As exiles and strangers, we look forward in hope to the restoration of all things under Christ.
We may not experience the same hardships and trials as our Christian brothers and sisters did in the first-century Greco-Roman world. However, 1 Peter offers a lot of application and wisdom for us today and the circumstances we find ourselves in. I am looking forward to exploring this letter together, and I hope you are as well.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from:
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
handout (PDF download): Abraham's Family
lesson slides (PDF format): Abraham's Family