This epistle was written by the apostle Peter probably about 60 A.D. While the writer may have had Jewish believers in mind, he included Gentile believers also, see Ch.2:10. The distinctive note is preparation for victory in suffering. In fact, this last named word may be regarded as the key-word of the epistle. It occurs about fifteen times.
The epistle may be divided into three parts:
1. Chs.1:1 to 2:8. Suffering, and integral part of full salvation.
2. Chs. 2:9 to 4:19. The Christians life in the world.
3. Ch.5. The Christians life in the church.
SUFFERING AN INTEGRAL PART OF FULL SALVATION.
The apostolic greeting in Ch.1:2 suggests that to be a real Christian there is a call to submit ourselves in obedience to God. This will entail a certain amount of chastening for the self-life, but as is said in the epistle to the Hebrews, “afterward it worketh the peaceable fruit of righteousness”. God wants children on whom He can look with pleasure. He has made possible a new life within us by the resurrection of Christ, and expects that we shall avail ourselves of new life that we may be kept by His power “through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”, vs.3-5. This will call for the trial of our faith which is to be purified by fire even as gold is tried, but God will regulate the fire Himself so that only the dross is consumed, vs.6-7.
This salvation is a hidden mystery to those who have not experienced it. Those who wrote of it in days of old did not understand, but it is now clearly reported to us as the Gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Ghost, vs.10-12. We who have the light must submit intelligently to the purifying process, and see to it that we choose a holy walk as God requires of us, vs.13-14. In view also of the great price paid for our redemption, God counts upon us to live for Him, and manifest unfeigned love for the brethren, vs.18-22. We may all recall how that when Christ chose Peter he was known as Simon the son of Jona. Jesus said he should be called Cephas, which is by interpretation a stone. From then on Peter was in the school of suffering, but out of it all he learned a lesson which he now gives to us in this first epistle. Christ was a living stone and God wrought in Him until He could be highly exalted and become the head of the corner. Now He chooses every one of us and patiently shapes us until we can be built up a spiritual house, in which spiritual sacrifices are offered through Jesus Christ, Ch. 2:4-7.
THE CHRISTIANS LIFE IN THE WORLD.
God does not promise to remove us out of the world, not even to shield us from its harsh treatment. Our obligations to others and to the powers that be are the same as borne by our fellow men. We are to order our lives so that the Gentiles may glorify God because of our sincerity, Ch.2:11-17. Servants are to serve their masters with humility and faithfulness even though they are persecuted for their faith, vs.18-20. Christ left us a perfect example in this thing. He was reviled and threatened but committed His soul in well-being to His Father, Who would in due time settle for all such matters. Because of this He was able to redeem us so that we can now obtain salvation and healing through Him, vs.21-25.
Wives and husbands are to live together as being heirs together of the grace of life, that their prayers be not hindered. The woman is to be careful not to add a lot of unnecessary outward adornment to her person, for a meek and quiet spirit is of great price in the sight of God, Ch.3:3-4. Refraining from fretful quarreling will aid greatly the healing of the body, a thing we do well to bear in mind, vs.8-12. Suffering for righteousness sake is to be borne cheerfully, and each one is to be ready to give an answer will all meekness when anyone asks the reason for the hope that is within the heart, vs.14-15. Again the sufferings of Christ are used as an example. He was put to death in the flesh, and then came forth victorious by the Spirit. To those who had resisted God’s Word through Noah He testified of their loss, and is now to be a less to us that we should take shelter in Christ our Ark, vs.18-21.
Chapter 4 exhorts us to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ, that as He moved steadily forward in the will of God in spite of much suffering, so we should do likewise, vs.1-4. All men shall give account to God for the way they have lived. Those who have died shall be judged by what attitude they took to the Gospel which was preached to them when they lived, vs.5-6. In speaking and in ministry we must obtain help from God so that we may properly represent Him to the world around us, v.11. We are chosen in the furnace of affliction. It is one continuous fiery trial and we must adjust ourselves to the fact regardless of how we feel about it. We should furthermore rejoice inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, so that in due time we may also share His glory, vs.12-14. Judgment begins at the house of God. It is hard enough, but we must remember that it will be much worse for the ungodly someday, vs.17-19.
THE CHRISTIANS LIFE IN THE CHURCH.
The elders of the church are accountable to God and must be examples to His people. They are not to feed the flock for what they get out of it, but willingly, and they must not lord it over God’s heritage. The Lord Himself will fully reward them someday, Ch.5:1-4. Mutual submission is to be practiced in the church. All are to humble themselves under the hand of God, and He will exalt them in due time. The devil is to be steadfastly resisted in the faith, each one remembering that his brother and his sister is likewise tested. God will work in us until we become established in the faith, vs.5-10. Peter closes by saying, “This is the true grace of God wherein ye stand”. We must carefully observe all he has said that the will of God may be accomplished in our lives.