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- 1 Peter
by Paul E. Kretzmann
The First General Epistle of Peter
The chief events in the life of Peter, the author of the two epistles bearing his name, may be summarized as follows. Simeon (Hebrew, meaning Hearing), abbreviated to Simon, whom the Lord named Cephas (Aramaic), or Petros (Greek), John 1:42; Matthew 16:18, was the son of John, or Jonas, a fisherman of Bethsaida in Galilee, a small city on the northwestern shore of the lake which is usually called the Sea of Galilee or Lake Gennesaret. He was married, not only at the time when he became a disciple of the Lord, Matthew 8:14, but also some twenty-five years later, for we are told that his wife accompanied him on his missionary journeys, 1 Corinthians 9:5. Having been, with his brother Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, he became acquainted with Jesus at the time of the latter's first trip to the capital, John 1:40-42, and was later prominent in the number of the twelve apostles, Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18. The gospels picture him as one of the closest friends of the Lord, one of the three that were distinguished by being witnesses of the miracle on the Mount of Transfiguration, of that in the house of Jairus, and of the first part of the Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter's impulsive nature prompted him to assume the role of spokesman for the Twelve on more than one occasion, a fact which also brought down upon him some of the sternest rebukes which the Lord administered. A characteristic of Peter during the ministry of Christ was his self-reliance, which came to the foreground upon several occasions and finally culminated in his threefold denial of his Savior. But he arose from his fall in true repentance and faith, and was accepted by the Lord in the wonderful interview which took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, John 21:15-17. After the ascension of Christ, Peter again appears as the spokesman and leader of the disciples. He not only proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the Day of Pentecost with miraculous results, but he also confirmed the message brought by him and his fellow-apostles with such signs and wonders as to confound the enemies and establish the hearts of the believers. He was afterward delivered out of prison by an angel, preached the Gospel in Samaria, in the coast cities of Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea, being the first apostle to receive heathen Christians into the Church. Having returned to Jerusalem, he was again imprisoned, and once more miraculously delivered by an angel. He left Jerusalem for only a short while, later residing there for a number of years. Afterwards he made extended journeys in the interest of the Gospel, very likely through Asia Minor, and toward the end of his life probably came to Rome, where the congregation at that time was without an apostolic adviser, Paul having left for the Orient after his first Roman imprisonment. There is no reason for doubting the historical accounts that Peter also died in Rome as a martyr, under Emperor Nero, at about the same time that Paul was imprisoned for the second time and suffered death for the sake of Christ.
The first letter of Peter is addressed to "the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," 1 Peter 1:1. The Christian congregations in these provinces of Asia Minor had been founded by Paul and his associates and consisted largely of Gentile Christians. The address reminded the readers that they had been elected, or chosen, by God to be a peculiar people to Himself and that their true home was the heavenly kingdom. Since the Christians in the various congregations of Asia Minor were suffering reproach for the sake of the name of Christ, were being made to feel the ill will of their heathen neighbors, and were consequently in need of comfort and strength, Peter wanted to establish them in the grace of God, thus enabling them to overcome all suspicion and distrust with the weapon of a godly life. "The whole letter abounds in exhortation and admonition. Again and again the apostle exhorts and admonishes his Christian readers to lead a godly life and thus to disprove the suspicion and slander that they were evil-doers. But they were also in great need of comfort and encouragement. This he freely weaves into his exhortation and admonition. He assures them that their sufferings are for their good and the glory of God. He tells them that their experience is nothing strange and unusual, but that the same afflictions are accomplished in their brethren that are in the world, and that they should really rejoice, inasmuch as they were partakers of Christ's sufferings. He reminds them that their sufferings shall last but a while, and that hereafter in heaven they shall enjoy great and eternal salvation. Thus he illumines the dark night of sufferings with the bright rays of Christian hope. St. Peter has often and truly been called ‘the Apostle of Hope. '"
The letter was written at Babylon, which is most likely a designation for Rome, this city, under Emperor Nero, having become a second Babylon. If we assume this to be true, then the presence of Mark and Silvanus is also explained without difficulty, 1 Peter 5:12-13. The circumstances as represented in the letter point to the middle sixties as the time when the letter was written, the probability being that Peter addressed its comforting words to the Christians of Asia Minor at the time when Paul was on his western journey and therefore could not give this matter his personal attention. Incidentally the letter is a bit of evidence for the complete harmony which existed between the two great apostles, Paul and Peter. They were perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
The contents of the letter may briefly be given as follows. After the opening salutation there follows a wonderful hymn of praise to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His work of regeneration in the Christians, by which they have become partakers of the hope of eternal glory. This hope elevates the believers above all the sufferings of this present world. Accordingly, the admonition follows that the Christians, as God's people of the New Testament covenant, should lead a godly life, especially with regard to the heathen of their vicinity, be obedient to the government placed over them by God, and in whatever state or calling the Lord may have placed them give evidence of all Christian virtues. In tribulations and sufferings also they should show all patience and meekness in their Christianity and strengthen themselves by the remembrance of Christ's suffering and exaltation. Toward one another the Christians were incidentally to exhibit all brotherly love, bear the afflictions that fell to their lot, fulfill the duties which their membership in the congregation imposed upon them, be vigilant over against the temptations of the devil, for which God would give them strength. The letter ends with an account of personal matters, a doxology, and greetings.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26