Apostle Peter in his letter to the Christian “exiles” dispersed in the world writes to encourage Christians undergoing suffering and to instruct them how to respond Christianly to their persecutors and to urge them to live lives worthy of their calling. The concerns for Christian living in the context of hostility and suffering are placed within the context of Christ’s suffering and resurrection—his suffering providing a pattern for believers and his resurrection giving them hope in the midst of present suffering.
Hardship and holiness: these are the twin themes of Peter’s first epistle, written to a church composed of Gentile converts from licentious hedonism on the one hand and Jewish converts with Old Testament traditions on the other hand. Together they experienced an alien and exile status in a hostile world. Persecution against and oppression of the church had already begun, and Peter writes to encourage this “mixed bag” of believers with dear but easily forgotten truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Peter provides this encouragement through a combination of proclamation and exhortation, and curiously, one of the proclamations is that suffering is inevitable for followers of Jesus. Such brutal facts may be difficult to take initially. But as trials come, the understanding that such suffering can be the mark and measure of faithfulness helps these early Christians to see that affliction is one more means of Christlikeness and, indeed, one more avenue of true joy.
Peter’s words on holiness and hardship are inextricably connected. Because of the way the Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, Peter not only sees holiness as necessary for enduring hardship; he sees hardship as a way the Spirit makes us holy.
Peter is gracious to apply these truths generally at first, and then gradually more specifically to the practical challenges of everyday life. The connection between hardship and holiness is applicable for Christian citizenship (2:13–25), Christian families (3:1–7), and Christian churches (5:1–11).
From Peter’s instructions, believers in Jesus are trained in seeing the role and even the value of suffering. Christians learn that hardship is not outside God’s sovereign will and is used by God to fashion us according to Christ’s image. Authentic holiness in this adversity-filled life is possible through the power of the Spirit in the gospel, and indeed it is this very adversity that trains us for godliness. Through it all, however, we remember that the hardships of the world are temporary blips on the radar of the joyful life of eternal glory that begins when our flesh gives way and we go to be with the Lord. And one day, Christ will return to avenge our persecution and vindicate our suffering.
* Adapted from ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.
For a video on 1 Peter via the Bible Project, click here.
This week’s Bible reading schedule:
|Monday: 1 Peter 1||☐||Thursday: 1 Peter 4||☐|
|Tuesday: 1 Peter 2||☐||Friday: 1 Peter 5||☐|
|Wednesday: 1 Peter 3||☐||Saturday: Jude 1||☐|