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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

1 Peter 1

Verses 1-21

Analysis and Annotations



CHAPTER 1:1-21

1. The introduction and doxology (1 Peter 1:1-5 )

2. Suffering and the coming glory (1 Peter 1:6-9 )

3. As revealed in the prophets (1 Peter 1:10-12 )

4. Exhortations to holy living (1 Peter 1:13-21 )

1 Peter 1:1-5

As stated in the introduction, Peter writes to believing Jews in the dispersion throughout the provinces mentioned in the first verse. There is at once pointed out a contrast between them as true believers and their former condition. The nation to which they belonged was an elect nation, but they were “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” It is something infinitely higher than a national election. Here is an individual election; they were foreknown of God the Father. In the Old Testament the Lord called Israel nationally “my first-born son,” but no individual Israelite knew God as his Father, nor did an Israelite know himself individually as a son of God and a member of the family of God. They had received something better.

The nation had been set aside while those who believed were brought individually into the family of God, knowing God as their Father, while they became His children. Israel as a nation was set apart externally and by ordinances; but their setting apart, or sanctification, was through the Spirit. Their sanctification was unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Their setting apart was vastly different from that separation which God had accorded to the nation as such. The Holy Spirit had set them apart unto the obedience of Christ, called them to obey as He obeyed, not to an obedience of the law. Connected with this obedience is the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, that precious blood typified by their former sacrifices which were unable to cleanse from sin, but the blood of Christ assures perfect forgiveness and justification, and that gives confidence and boldness before God, and liberty and power to practice the obedience of Christ, for which the believer is set apart.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His great mercy, hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead.” This is the doxology. It declares the new relationship into which they had been brought; for these Jewish believers it is no longer the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They were begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead. It is a joyful song of the better hope. We may think of what it meant to Peter, as well as to the other disciples. They had believed on Jesus as their promised, national Messiah. Their hope was in Him. As the two said on the way to Emmaus, “we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” They hoped He would be King and take the throne of His father David. Then He who was their hope died on the shameful cross, and hope died. But the third day came and Christ arose from among the dead. Hope revived, yea, they were begotten again unto a living hope. His resurrection was a begetting again to a living hope, no longer the hope of the earthly kingdom but a living hope “unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that fadeth not away.” And this living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, the hope which centers in Him as the living, risen and glorified One, is the hope of all His people.

Israel as a nation possessed an earthly inheritance, the promised land and with it corresponding earthly blessings. But now as the elect, according to the foreknowledge of the Father, they have a better inheritance. Earthly things are corruptible; the heavenly inheritance is incorruptible. Earthly things are defiled, pollution clings to the fairest and choicest; the coming inheritance is undefiled, nor can it ever be polluted by sin and its curse, it is eternally pure. Here on earth everything is fading, every beautiful flower has its roots in a grave, all is passing and fading away; but that inheritance which we shall receive is never-fading, it is always fresh and beautiful. And this inheritance is “preserved in heaven for you”; it is more than reserved, as we have it in our Bibles. It is with Him in the glory and He preserves it for His saints, so that the cruel hand of Satan cannot touch it nor take it away from man. And while that inheritance is preserved by the never-failing Lord in glory, saints are kept for the inheritance by the power of God through faith. Here is the real perseverance of the saints; the power to persevere and to keep is not in us but in God. That inheritance is ready to be revealed in the last times, that is when the Lord comes for His saints.

1 Peter 1:6-9

The way to the promised land for the literal Israel led through the desert sands with trials and testings. The way of the elect in Christ also leads through the desert with its wilderness experiences; faith too must be honored and glorified by testings. Faith is not only a precious thing for us, it is precious to God as well. It is His gold, that in which He rejoices. To bring out its value various trials are permitted by Him: “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” The goal of the hope, when the inheritance will be bestowed, is the appearing of Jesus Christ. This is His visible appearing. Peter writes as the apostle of circumcision and he does not write about the church as the body of Christ, the heavenly calling and destiny of the church, and therefore he does not say anything about the rapture preceding the revelation. Peter always speaks of His appearing or revelation; salvation as used in this chapter means the manifestation in glory, when He appears in visible glory and when we shall be manifested with Him in glory. Having mentioned His appearing, the Spirit of God directs the attention at once to the Person of Christ. He must ever be the object of faith and occupation for the true believer. This brings into view the true character of Christianity.

“Whom having not seen ye love.” It is a strange sound and fact at first, but in the end it is precious. Who ever loved a person that he never saw? We know that in human relations it is not so. In divine things it is precisely what shows the power and special character of a Christian’s faith. “Whom having not seen, ye love, in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” This at once gives us a true and vivid picture of what Christianity is, of signal importance for the Jews to weigh, because they always looked forward for a visible Messiah as an object, the Son of David. But here it is altogether another order of ideas. It is a rejected Messiah who is the proper object of the Christian’s love, though he never beheld Him; and who while unseen becomes so much the more simply and unmixedly the object of his faith, and the spring of “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (Wm. Kelly).

1 Peter 1:10-12 .

He directs their attention to the Prophets. The Spirit of Christ was in them and they testified before of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow. This is the great message of these holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. When our Lord said to the Jews “Search the Scriptures... they are they which testify of Me” He called attention to the same fact. They prophesied of the grace which was to come and though they did not understand their own prophecies, they sought diligently, they studied what they had written, searching and always searching, to find out what time, near or far, these things should come to pass. But they knew one thing, “To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us did they minister the things which are reported to you by those who have preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, into which things the angels desire to look.” They knew that it was not for themselves, nor for their own times, that which the Spirit had announced, but for another time. The passage is illustrated by comparing Isaiah 64:4 with 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 . The Spirit having come down from heaven after Christ had died and was raised from among the dead, has made known the fullness of redemption. And the angels desire to look into these things; they seek to explore and to fathom the wonders of that redemption and the coming glories which are connected with it.

1 Peter 1:13-21

The first exhortation is to gird up the loins of the mind. The man who girds the loins of the body is getting ready for service; the girding of the loins of the mind means to set the mind on these things, the things spiritual and unseen. To be sober means to be watchful and temperate, thus walking soberly, and “set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (the correct translation). As they were now “obedient children” in the family of God, their responsibility and calling is to live and act as such. A holy God demands a holy people; this was God’s call to His people Israel in the Old Testament, it is His call to the elect in the New Testament (Leviticus 11:44 ). This necessitates a walk in the Spirit as it is so fully revealed in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians.

Next we find two great reasons for walking in holiness; the first reason is the relationship which believers have as children, God being their Father; the second, the redemption price which was paid.

“And if ye call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man’s work, pass the time of your sojourn in fear, knowing that ye were redeemed not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ, foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake, who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from among the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope might be in God.”

He has called us by His grace and we call Him Father. As Father, the head of His family, to which we belong, He must govern His house. As Father He exercises judgment in government regarding His children; He must chasten His children if they do not walk as it becometh those who are in possession of the divine nature. And though that government is one of love and grace, the Father’s dealing with a beloved child, we must pass the time of our sojourn with fear. But this is not a slavish fear, nor a fear which has in it the elements of uncertainty as to salvation, a fear which trembles before a holy God, fearing His wrath. It is a godly, a holy fear, a fear that we might not please Him. This holy fear should be a passion to measure up to our calling as children and not to displease Him who is our Father, so that He does not need to exercise a Father’s judgment upon us.

While the first reason to walk in holiness has to do with our conscience, the second concerns the affections. That blessed redemption by the blood of Christ, the Lamb without spot and blemish, foreknown before the foundation of the world, is the other great incentive to please God. It is not by silver or gold that He has redeemed us from all the vain things, whether vain religious traditions, or vain manner of life and all that goes with it, but by that which is the dearest, the most blessed and the most precious thing in the eyes of God and to the heart of God--the blood of Christ. No finite mind can understand the price God paid for our redemption. By Him we believe in God, who raised Him from among the dead and gave Him glory. And that acquired glory He received He has given to His own (John 17:22 ).

Verses 22-25


CHAPTER 1:22-2:10

1. The new birth (1 Peter 1:22-25 )

2. Spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:1-3 )

3. The privileges of believers as the holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-10 )

1 Peter 1:22-25

The relationship of those who are thus redeemed, whose faith and hope is in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, whose souls are purified by obedience to the truth, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, is stated first: “Love one another with a pure heart fervently.” All the elect through the foreknowledge of God the Father are covered by the same love, are redeemed by the same Lamb, washed in the same precious blood, have the same Father. They are one; they are brethren and as such love must characterize them. But this love, loving one another out of a pure heart fervently, is the fruit of the new nature which all possess who have believed and are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” The Word of God, living and abiding, under the operation of the Spirit (the Word is “the water” of which our Lord spoke to Nicodemus) is the agent of the new birth. It is not corruptible seed, but incorruptible, hence the nature is an incorruptible, a holy nature. There are three incorruptible things mentioned in this chapter. An incorruptible inheritance, an incorruptible redemption price, and an incorruptible seed giving an incorruptible nature. And that new nature must love that which is of God, therefore the exhortation of loving one another, which is more fully developed in the great “family Epistle,” the first Epistle of John.

But the new birth carries with it another blessing. “For all flesh is as grass and all the glory of it as the flower of the grass. The grass hath withered and the flower fallen, but the Word of the Lord endureth forever, and this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

The old creation is left behind, the world with all its glory and boastings, is judged. All is as grass and the glory of man as the flower of the grass. Those born again do no longer belong to this world, as He prayed: “They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.” The words concerning the grass and the flower of the grass are a quotation from Isaiah (Isaiah 40:6 ; Isaiah 40:8 ). But the quotation is changed a little. In Isaiah we read: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth,” and here it is, “The grass hath withered and the flower fallen,” that is how faith must look upon the world and all its glory, as withered and fallen, with no more attraction for the heart which knows God. But those who are born again are linked with that which abideth for ever, the Word of the Lord, preached in that ever blessed Gospel.

1 Peter 2:1-3

“Wherefore, laying aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisies and envyings and all evil-speakings as new born babes desire earnestly the pure milk of the Word that ye may grow by it unto salvation, if ye have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Those who are born again of incorruptible seed, in possession of a new nature, are still in the world, though they are no longer of it. Evil is on all sides and there is still the old nature, the flesh, in every child of God though believers are reckoned as being no longer in the flesh (Romans 8:9 ). The old things of the flesh must be put off, completely laid aside. This is the necessary thing for spiritual growth; if there is no putting off of these there can be no progress. Peter speaks of believers as “new-born babes.”

The sense in which this expression is used here differs from the use of it in 1 Corinthians 3:1 : “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” The spiritual growth of the Corinthians had been arrested and dwarfed; they never developed, but remained babes, a spiritual monstrosity. But the meaning here is entirely different. Believers should be at all times like new-born babes hungering for that which the Lord has provided for spiritual growth, the milk in all its purity as found in His Word. The mother by which we are begotten again, that is the living and abiding Word of God, has also the nourishment for the life we have received. In this sense the child of God must always be like a healthy babe, always craving, hungering and thirsting for the pure milk as provided in His Word. All that we need, yea, every need is provided there, and as we go to that fountain which never runs dry, which never fails nor disappoints, we shall grow thereby.

One of the most subtle delusions is found among some Pentecostal sects, who imagine that they are so filled with the Spirit that they can dispense with the reading of and feeding on the Word. In the Authorized Version two words are missing which belong in the text; they are the words “unto salvation”... “that ye may grow thereby unto salvation.” They were omitted in some manuscripts, but belong here. Salvation here has the same meaning as in the first chapter, it looks forward to the end in glory.

And if we have felt that the Lord is gracious, have tasted of His loving kindness, we shall desire more and more of it, crave for still more. Peter surely had tasted that the Lord is gracious. We think of his denial, and when the Lord turned and looked upon him, Peter went out and wept bitterly. He had tasted that the Lord is gracious, and more so, when the Lord dealt so graciously with him at the meal His blessed hands had prepared for His disciples on the lakeshore (John 21:1-25 ), and His loving voice asked: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?” The sentence, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,” is a quotation from the Psalms (Psalms 34:8 ). David, like Peter, had shamefully failed and like Peter he had tasted that the Lord is gracious. All His saints have had the same experience of the graciousness of the Lord.

1 Peter 2:4-10

The testimony of Peter which follows is of great importance. The fisherman of Galilee knew nothing of what would happen centuries later. He did not know that ritualism would exalt him to a position of supremacy, claiming that he was and is the rock upon which the Church is built, that he was a bishop who communicated in Rome his apostolic authority to another, as it is claimed to one by name of Linus, and Linus handed over the same authority to Cletus and Cletus to Clemens, Clemens to Anacletus, Anacletus to Sixtus and so on from one generation to the other, each adding a little more till the harlot system of the mystical Babylon, the papacy became what it is today. But while Peter did not know the future, the Holy Spirit knew and He inspired his pen to write that which is the complete refutation of popery and a man-made priesthood.

Not Peter is the living stone upon which everything rests, but the Lord Jesus Christ is the rock foundation, the Stone upon whom all is built. Not Peter was rejected by men, then chosen of God and precious, but it is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures had announced this fact beforehand. Isaiah 28:16 is quoted in Verse 6. This is followed by a quotation from Psalms 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 . The Lord Jesus while on earth had made use of these prophecies given by His Spirit (Matthew 21:42 ). The Holy Spirit after Pentecost reminded the rulers, elders and scribes of the people once more of this great prophecy concerning the rejection of the Messiah by the nation (Acts 4:9-12 ). And when the Lord Jesus quoted this prophecy from Psalms 118:1-29 He added, what is cited here in 1 Peter 2:8 , whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken,” that is what happened to the nation Israel.

The second half of this statement of our Lord in Matthew 21:44 is still unaccomplished-”but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” This will happen at the close of the times of the Gentiles, when the stone strikes the feet of the prophetic image (Daniel 2:1-49 ). Israel had rejected the Stone and therefore was unfit as a nation to build the spiritual house, as the Lord had likewise announced: “the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof.” They had as a nation a house called “The House of the Lord,” where He delighted to dwell, but it was not a spiritual house, but a house made with hands, a shadow of the better things to come.

When Israel rejected the Messiah and the kingdom He had offered, when they had delivered Him up and He died, after His resurrection from among the dead and His exaltation to the right hand of God, the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, came to earth for the purpose of building amongst men the habitation of God, a spiritual house, and that house is the church. Thus Peter bears witness to Christ as the Living Stone, the rock upon which the Church “the spiritual house” is being built. He with all other believers, including ourselves, are the living stones. As mentioned in the introduction, Christ is the Petra, the Rock, Peter and every other child of God is a petros, a little rock, a living stone with Himself (Matthew 16:17-18 ). And His Son whom man dishonored and rejected is precious to God; He is His delight; He is precious to those who have believed; He is our delight. While God says that His delight is in Him, we too confess that all our delight is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, all believers constitute a holy priesthood. Peter does not claim an exclusive priesthood vested in him, but his inspired testimony is that all members of the body of Christ, the living stones, are a priesthood. In the Old Testament the priesthood of Christ was foreshadowed in Aaron and the priesthood of believers by the sons of Aaron. (See annotations in Leviticus.) No longer are needed sacrifices of animals, for He has brought the one sacrifice, by which he has made the new and living way by His blood into the Holiest, so that every believer can draw nigh with a true heart and full assurance of faith, with hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22 ). This completely disposes of the ritualistic priesthood, vested in “ordained” men, that system which has been and still is and always will be, the corruption of Christianity. It also answers the blasphemous mass, which is an act of idolatry.

The function of the holy priesthood of believers consists in bringing spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name” (Hebrews 13:15 ). It is worship in the spirit and truth; it is praise and adoration as well as the ministry of intercession.

Once more Peter mentions the fact of the Christian priesthood. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the excellencies of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (Hosea 2:23 ). Israel was chosen, Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, they were called “to show forth His praises.” They never attained it, because they were not a holy nation, though constituted a separated nation by God’s calling. But these believing Jews through grace in Christ had become a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. As a remnant of the nation they possessed now what the nation never possessed. Of course that remnant was embodied in the church, and is a part of the body of Christ. Yet the application to them as a remnant must not be lost sight of.

Nor must we forget that there will be a future remnant of the nation, the nation which is now dispersed, which will become a holy nation, a royal priesthood in connection with the other nations. The promises, the gifts and callings of God, will all be accomplished, and those who had not obtained mercy will yet obtain mercy; that will be when He whom they pierced comes again and when they shall look upon Him in that day. Apart from this application to them as believing Jews, to whom the Epistle was addressed, all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, have a royal priesthood. Christ is a holy Priest and a royal Priest; both aspects of His priesthood believers share in Him. We are holy priests to go in to God to represent man before God; we are royal priests to represent God before man, to show forth His excellencies. The royal priesthood of Christ, is the priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. He was the King-Priest who came to Abraham and made known God and His glory to Abraham. Thus in Christ we behold the glory of God and as identified with Christ, indwelt by Him, our royal priesthood is to make Him and His excellencies known among men.

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.