Survey of 1 Peter
Book Type: One of the New Testament's General Epistles; the twenty-first book of the New Testament; the sixtieth book of the Bible.
Author: Simon Peter, known as a leader among the twelve apostles. Though he denied Jesus three times the night He was betrayed, Jesus restored Peter to leadership. Peter was the main speaker at Pentecost (Acts 2), suffered for his faith, and fled Jerusalem after a miraculous escape from Herod around AD 42 (Acts 12). Little is known of his ministry after this time, though he was at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and in Antioch with Paul near this time (Galatians 2:11–14). Peter likely ministered among the areas mentioned in the first verse. Tradition notes that Peter died as a martyr under Nero in Rome around AD 65.
Audience: General Epistles are also known as "catholic epistles," meaning they are written to a general audience, rather than to a specific person or church. Peter was written to "those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1). These probably included both Gentile and Jewish believers, though Peter's ministry focused primarily on Jews. Peter had probably traveled to at least some of these locations and was now writing to encourage and instruct the believers there who faced various challenges and persecutions.
Date: Tradition teaches that Peter ministered in Rome during the AD 60s. In addition, the theme of suffering is strong, indicating the letter may have been written from Rome under Nero's persecution in AD 64 or 65. Since Peter died during this persecution around AD 65, the letter was written by this time.
Overview: The book's five chapters cover three main themes. The first section focuses on salvation (1 Peter 1:1—2:11). Believers are saved and preserved by God's power (1 Peter 1:3–5). God is with us despite persecution as predicted by past prophets (1 Peter 1:6–12). Believers therefore persevere by hope (1 Peter 1:13–21) through the love and power of Christ (1 Peter 1:22—2:10).
The second section discusses Christian living before others (1 Peter 2:11—4:6). This includes a variety of unbelievers such as governing authorities (1 Peter 2:11–17), masters (1 Peter 2:18–25), and family members (1 Peter 3:1–7). Believers are also called to live well among other believers (1 Peter 3:8–12). Suffering poses much difficulty for believers, yet those who follow Jesus must face it well (1 Peter 3:13—4:6).
The third section discusses the future and how Christians are called to live in light of it (1 Peter 4:7—5:11). Since Jesus could return at any time, believers are to live responsibly, not be surprised at trials, and "entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Peter 4:7–19). Leaders are specifically addressed (1 Peter 5:1–4). Peter concludes the letter with exhortations for humility, reminders of God's care, and a call to be cautious of Satan's schemes and stand firm in the faith (1 Peter 5:5–9). Peter emphasizes the future triumph of believers through God's restoration (1 Peter 5:10–11) and ends with final greetings (1 Peter 5:12–14).
Key Verses (ESV):
1 Peter 1:3: "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."
1 Peter 2:9: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
1 Peter 2:24: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."
1 Peter 5:8–9: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world."