1:1 From Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those temporarily residing abroad (in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia) who are chosen 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by being set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood. May grace and peace be yours in full measure!
There are signs within this letter that Peter is addressing a mixed group of Jewish and Gentile believers. ‘We know from Acts 2:9 that there were Jewish visitors from Asia Minor in Jerusalem for Pentecost, and those among them who were converted at that time would have taken the gospel message back with them. Converts at Pisidian Antioch and Iconium came from the synagogue, (Ac 13:43; 14:1) and Luke specifically mentions in the latter case that the church was formed both of Jews and Gentiles. So Peter’s writing reflects such a mixed gathering of believers. He uses the OT to prove his points (1 Pet 1:24-25; 2:6,7-8,22-24; 3:10-12; 4:18 5:5) and makes other allusions that would be meaningful to Jewish readers (e.g. in 1 Pet 1:1 ‘scattered’ Gk. diaspora is the technical term for the Jewish community outside Israel; see also 1 Pet 2:4-10 and 3:20). Other comments he makes would be more relevant to Gentile readers (e.g. 1 Pet 1:18, ‘the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers’; 1 Pet 2:10, ‘Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God’; 1 Pet 4:3, ‘you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans Gentiles choose to do’).’ (NBC)
From Peter – ‘The Gospels all agree on the prominence of Peter, a born leader, impulsive, yet burning with love and enthusiasm. It was to him that Jesus said both the toughest and the choicest things. Whatever Peter’s faults, a cold heart was not one of them. His warm pastoral concern for others glows in his letters.’ (Hillyer)
An apostle of Jesus Christ – ‘The supreme importance of the apostles is suggested by the fact that the phrase ‘of Jesus Christ’ is attached to no other New Testament office: we do not read of ‘teachers of Jesus Christ’ or ‘prophets of Jesus Christ’ or ‘evangelists of Jesus Christ’, only of ‘apostles of Jesus Christ’. Those who held this office had authority at least equal to the Old Testament prophets, for the apostles could speak and write God’s very words (Acts 5:3–4; Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 2:13; 14:37; 2 Cor. 13:3; Gal. 1:8–9; 1 Thess. 2:13; 4:8, 15; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14; 2 Pet. 3:2) and thus could write the words which became New Testament Scripture (1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Pet. 3:16, cf. Rev. 22:18–19; 1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Thess. 3:14).’ (Grudem)
Those temporarily residing abroad – NIV has ‘strangers in the world’, but, as Grudem remarks, this might wrongly suggest that they were unknown by their neighbours. He prefers ‘those who reside as aliens’ (NASB). The lives of Abraham and Daniel exemplify this. However, like them, we can learn how to live lives that bring honour to God even though surrounded by unbelief. Cf. Ps 137:4; Jn 17:6; Php 3:20.
Marshall notes that they may well have lived in scattered groups or even as isolated individuals. In that case, we must presume that they knew of, and were able to communicate with, one another (how else would this letter have been passed around?). How they would have needed the teaching and encouragement which this letter brought them!
There is disagreement among scholars about the exact meaning, as applied to Peter’s readers.
Some think that the spiritual meaning is foremost. To be sure, they lived in various Roman provinces, but, according to this view, these were their permanent places of residence.
Grudem agrees that Peter means not so much that they are ‘sojourners’ not so much in a physical, as in a spiritual, sense: ‘their true homeland is heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20) and any earthly residence therefore temporary.’ Yet, (Grudem adds) ‘they are “chosen” sojourners, ones whom the King of the universe has chosen to be his own people, to benefit from his protection, and to inhabit his heavenly kingdom.’
Others think that they were physically displaced. Calvin: ‘They who think that all the godly are thus called, because they are strangers in the world, and are advancing towards the celestial country, are much mistaken.’
Most who take this view judge that it they had become so subsequent to, and as a result of, their Christ profession. So John H. Elliot: ‘The addresses of 1 Peter were paroikoi by virtue of their social condition, not by virtue of their ‘heavenly home.’ The alternative to this marginal social condition of which 1 Peter speaks is not an ephemeral ‘heaven is our home’ form of consolation but the new home and social family to which the Christians belong here and now; namely, the oikos tou theou [“House of God”].’ (Cited by Himes; McKnight also adopts this view.)
Jobes thinks that Peter’s readers were literally resident aliens, but that they were so before they became Christians.
Scattered – Gk. diaspora. The term is used to describe Jews scattered in non-Jewish lands, cf. Jn 7:35. However, the term is probably used both by Peter and James (1:1) to include Gentile as well as Jewish believers. The Christian church in its entirety, regardless of ethnic background, constitutes the new Israel and is described in terms borrowed from OT descriptions of the old Israel. Cf. 1 Pet 2:9. This inclusive view is very striking, particularly in view of Peter’s own pilgrimage, Acts 10:9ff; Acts 11:17; 15:7.
That was associated with Christians from various parts of northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) is clear from the mention of the following regions:-
Pontus – A coastal strip of N Asia Minor, reaching from Bithynia in the W into the highlands of Armenia to the E. The origin of Christianity there is not known.
Galatia – Scholars are pretty certain that Peter is referring to the Roman province, which included not only the original territory of Galatia, but also parts of Pontus, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Pisidia, Paphlagonia and Isauria.
Cappadocia – A highland province of Rome, in the E of Asia Minor, bounded on the S by the chain of Mt Taurus, E by the Euphrates and N by Pontus. According to Acts 2:9. Jews from there were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
Asia – The region of Asia Minor which included the towns of Ephesus, Pergamum, Smyrna, Sardis, Thyatira, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Colossae and Hierapolis.
Bithynia – A territory on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus. It was administered with Pontus as a single province by the Romans.
The double description of Peter’s readers as ‘God’s elect’ and ‘strangers in the world’ already prepares them for what will follow. For the whole epistle will deal with the very practical tension between the dignity of being God’s chosen people and the struggle of living in an alien and often hostile world.
‘While we do not know just what “people-groups” or strata of society were included among the Christians of Asia Minor, we are struck by the unity that the gospel produces. Diverse as the backgrounds of these people were, they had become the new people of God, the brotherhood, the chosen people scattered in the world, 1 Pet 2:9-10,17; 5:9; 1:1.’ (Clowney)
Chosen – A leading thought here is the idea of the church as the new Israel (i.e. followers of the Messiah, both Jews and Gentiles), the new people of God. Cf. Rom 2:28-29; Gal 3:29; 6:16; Php 3:3; 1 Pet 2:9.
‘Many of Peter’s readers would hear in the term echoes of its use in the LXX to refer to God’s ‘chosen’ people, Israel (Ps. 89:3 (LXX 88:4); 105 (LXX 104):6, 43; 106 (LXX 105):5; Isa. 42:1; 43:20; 45:4; 65:9, 15, 22 (LXX 23), and would conclude that Peter thought of them as having a privileged status before God at least equal to that enjoyed by the chosen people whom God protected, preserved and blessed in the Old Testament (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4–10).’ (Grudem)
According to the foreknowledge of God – The meaning is not simply that God had prior knowledge about them (and where they would live). It is, rather, that God had known them beforehand with ‘a personal, loving, fatherly knowledge (Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:20; cf. ‘know’ in John 10:14; 1 Cor. 8:3; 2 Tim. 2:19). Thus “according to the foreknowledge” suggests “according to God’s fatherly care for you before the world was made”.’ (Grudem)
‘These Christian Gentiles are God’s chosen people because he has known them from all eternity…The expression foreknowledge does not mean that God had information in advance about Christ, or about his elect. Rather it means that both Christ and his people were the objects of God’s loving concern from all eternity.’ (Clowney)
God the Father…the Spirit…Jesus – Here is an early formulation of the Holy Trinity.
Set apart by the Spirit – Either, the Spirit’s act of setting us apart as God’s chosen possession, or his ongoing work of making us holy. Grudem favours the second meaning.
In Jn 17:17, Jesus pray that the Father would “Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.” There is, of course, no conflict here. God’s Spirit is the source, and God’s word the means, of our sanctification.
Obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood – Again, these could either refer to our initial obedience to the gospel and the cleansing that took place when our sins were forgiven, or to holiness of life which is the object and purpose of the Spirit’s sanctifying work. And, again, Grudem opts for the latter interpretation.
Here, then, are two sides of the Christian life. On the one hand, it is a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. But that obedience is always imperfect in this life. There is always a need to invoke and apply Christ’s blood-sacrifice for our sins. See also 1 Jn 1:7.
On this verse, Calvin comments that ‘by these words he reminds us, that if the shedding of his sacred blood is not to be in vain, our souls must be washed in it by the secret cleansing of the Holy Spirit. For which reason, also, Paul, speaking of cleansing and purification, says, ‘but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God,’.’ (1 Cor 6:11) (Institutes)
May grace and peace be yours in full measure! – ‘multiplied to you’ (NIV). Peter asks ‘that all their moments would be filled with God’s undeserved spiritual blessings.’ (Grudem)
‘Peace’, in biblical thought, is not merely absence of conflict, but reconciliation with God and all the blessings which flow from this. (Marshall)
New Birth to Joy and Holiness, 3-12
1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1:4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Verses 3-12 are one long sentence in the Greek. ‘Such long sentences could be viewed as skillful in antiquity, when hearers of speeches were accustomed to following the train of thought for a longer time than North American and some other television-trained readers are today.’ (NT Background Commentary)
This hymn of praise is similar in many ways to that found in Eph 1:3-12, but whereas there Paul extols God grace in Christ, here Peter celebrates the hope that is ours through Christ’s resurrection. A closer Pauline parallel, therefore, would be 1 Cor 15:55.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! – Given that this form of words is also found in 2 Cor 1:3 and Eph 1:3, it is reasonable to assume that it had become common currency in the early church (Marshall).
Nevertheless, these words are not merely formulaic. Here, as is so often the case, God is addressed in such a way as fits the nature of the case in hand. God cannot be known, loved or worshiped except as his Son Jesus Christ has revealed him to us.
‘The term “Father,” as applied to the first person of the Trinity, signifies not that the Father in any way created the Son or caused him to exist (for the Son has always existed and was never created, Jn 1:1-3; 8:58; 17:5,24; Rev 22:13), but that he relates to the Son as a father relates to a son normally: the Father plans and directs, the Son responds and obeys; the Father “sends,” the Son comes from the Father. (Gal 4:4; Jn 3:16,18 5:19,22,26-27,30) The Father creates “through” the Son; all things come “from” the Father “through” the Son. (Jn 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2) (Grudem)
Note the richness of the title given to Christ – our Lord Jesus Christ: the theme of resurrection is already anticipated in this title, for, according to Peter’s teaching on the day of Pentecost, it was through the resurrection that ‘God made this Jesus…both Lord and Christ’, Acts 2:36. In the possessive pronoun our is a reference to the fact that there is a bond not only between Peter, but also his readers, and the risen Lord. Christianity does not consist in doctrines only, but in a personal relationship between Christ and believers.
‘Although the Jews already knew of God as Father, the full revelation of the intimacy of this relationship came to those who saw how it was realized in Jesus and came to understand that they were admitted to the same relationship.’ (Marshall)
Now, Peter will expand on why God is thus worthy of praise:
His great mercy – Peter, having once denied his Lord, would have been specially mindful of God’s mercy.
He has given us new birth – ‘He has caused us to be born again’: the language is rather similar to that of Jn 3:3,7.
into a living hope – ‘Hope’ is a leading theme in this letter, 1 Pet 1:13, 21; 3:5, 15.
‘Physical birth brings us into a world that will eventually perish. Spiritual birth is into a world where there is hope for the future.’ (Marshall)
‘One of Peter’s aims in his letter, then, was to encourage his readers by giving them grounds for solid hope in the ultimate future so that they might face the immediate future with equanimity, courage and even joy.’ (Marshall)
This ‘living hope’ was certainly needed by those who were facing the possibility of violent and possibly deadly persecution. Although the situation facing Christians in Western civilisations is different (we face apathy rather that persecution) we still must face up to the reality of death, and to filled with a living hope.
‘These sons are heirs, but all this life-time is their minority; yet even now, being partakers of this new birth and sonship, they have a right to it, and in the assurance of that hope, they have this “lively hope”.’ (Leighton)
‘It is said to be “lively,” not only objectively, but effectively; enlivening and comforting the children of God in all distresses, enabling them to encounter and surmount all difficulties in the way.’ (Leighton)
‘Worldly hopes often mock men, and so cause them to be ashamed; and men are most of all ashamed of those things that discover weakness of judgement in them. Now worldly hopes put the fool upon a man. When he hath judged himself sure, and laid so much weight and expectation on them, they break and foil him. They are not living, but lying hopes and dying hopes; they often die before us, and we live to bury them, and see our own folly and infelicity in trusting to them; but, at the utmost, they die with us when we die, and can accompany us no further. But this hope answers expectation to the full, and much beyond it, and deceives in no way but in that happy way of far exceeding it.’ (Leighton)
‘The world dares say no more for its device, than, “while I breathe I hope;” but the children of God can add, by virtue of this living hope – while I die I hope.’ (Leighton)
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ – whose resurrection had featured strongly in Peter’s early preaching, Acts 2:24,31-32,36; 3:15,26; 4:2,10 etc.).
‘Christ’s resurrection is the ground work of our hope. And the new birth is our title or evidence of our interest in it. So that until our souls are partakers of the spiritual resurrection from the death of sin, we can have no assurance our bodies shall be partakers of that blessed resurrection to life.’ (Flavel)
An inheritance – which is kept for us, and we are kept for it, v5. This inheritance is our birthright – ours not because we attained it but because we were born into it by regeneration. Think of the largest inheritance of earthly treasures. Do you not value a heavenly inheritance vastly more? And it is yours, child of God. Peter had heard Jesus speak of this heavenly treasure, Mt 6:19 “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
This inheritance is like that of Israel, whose wanderings in the wilderness were given hope by God’s promise that they would inherit the land. Like them, the people of God today are strangers and pilgrims, making their way through a hostile world, strengthened by the promise of a better life to come.
This inheritance can never perish, spoil or fade – The land of Israel was ravaged by invading armies, defiled by lawlessness and idolatry, and drought-stricken through God’s judgement. But our inheritance, on the other hand, is sure. Peter has to describe this inheritance in terms of what it is not, because the reality is beyond our comprehension. It is not a city, or a land, it is ‘salvation’, v4: is is everything that God has for us.
This is an echo of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham. God had promised to Abraham and his descendents that they would receive as their inheritance the land of Canaan. The New Testament does not replace or annul this promise, but expands it immensely. Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham himself looked forward to another country, a better country, a heavenly country. And we – Jewish believers and Gentile believers together – are inheritors of that same promise.
It is reserved in heaven for you, 1:5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
It is reserved in heaven for you – And so nothing on earth can threaten it.
‘Salvation is no precarious half-measure but a foundation laid in heaven.’ (E.K. Simpson)
Protected – Gk. phroureo, ‘guarded, kept safe, carefully watched’. Grudem says that ‘shielded’ [NIV] only gives half the meaning: ‘The word can mean both “kept from escaping” and “protected from attack,” and perhaps both kinds of guarding are intended here: God is preserving believers from escaping out of his kingdom, and he is protecting them from external attacks.’ The present participle gives the sense of, ‘you are continually being guarded’ (Grudem again).
- The security of faith, 1 Pet 1:5
- The trials of faith, 1 Pet 1:7
- The joy of faith, 1 Pet 1:8
- The goal of faith, 1 Pet 1:9
(Pickering, 1,000 Subjects, adapted)
Believers are not passive: they are guarded by God’s power through faith. We exercise trust in God, but his power enables us to do so.
The goal of this divine protection is not some flimsy, temporary prize but the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. Of course, ‘salvation’ in the NT can have a past, present, or future reference, and here it is the latter: Peter is referring to ‘the future full possession of all the blessings of our redemption’ (Grudem). These blessings are ‘ready to be revealed’ because they have already been prepared.
Although the divine guarding works in conjunction with human faith, Peter looks forward into the future without any doubt that God’s protection (and therefore the safety of the believer) will fail.
‘Although the New Testament writers also speak of Christians as being already saved, the emphasis lies on the future state; present salvation is an anticipation of what we shall enjoy fully in the future. It is as if Peter were describing salvation as being like a new model of a car, sitting under wraps in a showroom and waiting for display on the day when it comes on sale. Christians, if the metaphor may be pressed, are people who are already enjoying test drives in advance of its official release.’ (Marshall)
1:6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 1:7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold—gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away—and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
You may have to suffer for a short time – ‘This…point is one of the hardest things to believe when a person is in pain; every moment seems an eternity. Peter means, no doubt, that the period of suffering is short compared with the eternal duration of future salvation (see 5:10). ‘ (Marshall)
‘He never brings them into so low a condition that he does not leave them more cause of joy than sorrow.’ (Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, 37.)
Praise, glory and honour – 1 Pet 5:4
1:8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 1:9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
Though you have not seen him – Peter, of course, had seen the Lord. He could picture Jesus in Capernaum, being served supper by Peter’s mother-in-law, cured of her fever. He could remember Jesus on the sea, lifting Peter from the water: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” He could recall Jesus in the hall of the high priest, and his look after he had denied him. He could see Jesus on the cross, and Jesus alive again, sitting by the fire on the shore of Galilee: “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
We have not been in Galilee with Jesus. But we may share Peter’s love for him, for through his witness, and that of others, we have learned about what Jesus said and did. And by the Holy Spirit we are brought to know and love the living Lord.
‘Unlike the original eyewitnesses (including Peter himself) the readers have never seen Christ in the flesh. Despite this they love him. Here is the deepest expression of the Christian’s relationship to Christ. It goes beyond feeling personal emotional ties and expresses a commitment similar to that expressed by the word believe, but it brings out, as believe does not, the warmth of the personal emotion that the believer has for Christ in response to the love which Christ first showed to the believer.’ (Marshall)
We did not see Jesus. We do not now see him. But we shall see him, v7. But already we live in the light of that hope, and can ‘rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.’
You love him – we love for what he is, and for what he has done, for his character and his works.
You believe in him – It is not a surprising thing to believe in something (or someone) we have not seen. Thousands make journeys to visit places or people they have never seen before, and we do not count them mad for doing so.
Indescribable and glorious joy – The joy of the Holy Spirit: ‘This is when the Spirit breathes upon our rejoicing in God, which is a grace very little in exercise with many, and maketh it set out sensibly and vigorously; and when he excites and stirs the passion of joy and of delight in the soul, so that there is an unspeakable and glorious joy in the soul, in the apprehension of God’s friendship and nearness unto him-‘In whom though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ (1 Pet 1:8) This joy followeth upon peace, and peace followeth upon righteousness-‘The kingdom of God-is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ (Rom 14:17) This joy will in general not fail to be according to the measure of the Assurance’, ‘of faith, as 1 Pet 1:8-‘In whom believing ye rejoice.” (Guthrie)
‘This joy is unspeakable, because, like bodily health, it is better felt than expressed.’ (John Cotton, on 1 Jn 1:4)
Notice that Peter does not say, ‘You…should be filled…with joy’, but ‘You…are filled..with joy.’ The experience of joy will vary from one Christian to another: some are by temperament disposed to gloominess, and others lack the assurance that would make them more joyful. But it is a general fact that to love Christ and believe in him makes people rejoice.
1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. 1:11 They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory. 1:12 They were shown that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things now announced to you through those who proclaimed the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things angels long to catch a glimpse of.
The prophets…predicted the grace that would come to you – Peter is here ‘describing what the prophets said from a Christian point of view’ (Marshall). A case in point is Isa 53, which Peter will cite a little later.
The prophetic message concerned this salvation. Christ died for sins and was raised bodily according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-5).
They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating – They knew, then, about the sufferings and subsequent glories of Christ. What they didn’t know were the precise circumstances of his coming.
Peter’s teaching here is exactly consistent with that of his Master, Lk 24:26-27.
‘The predictions of the sufferings of the Messiah begin with the prediction of the ‘seed’ of the woman who would be bruised in the heel by the serpent (Gen. 3:15), and continue through much of the Old Testament writings (for, example, Ps. 22:1, 7–8, 18; 34:19–20; 69:21; Isa. 50:6; 52:14–15; 53:1–12; Zech. 12:10; 13:7, etc.).
‘The Messiah’s subsequent glory is predicted in Pss 2; 16:10; 22:22; 45:7; 110:1, 4; Isa. 9:6; 40:3–5, 9–11; 42:1–4; 61:1–3; Jer. 33:14–15; Ezek. 34:23; Dan. 7:13–14; Mal. 3:1–3, etc. And the ‘glories’ of the Messiah’s people are seen in Isa. 51:11; 60:1–22; 62:2–5; Jer. 31:31–34; Dan. 7:18, 27; Hos. 2:23; Joel 2:28–32; Amos 9:13–15; Hab. 2:14; Zeph. 3:14–20; Zech. 14, etc.
‘Yet all these verses are only a beginning, for they do not include the ‘acted-out prophecies’ seen in the historical events of the Old Testament, where in the lives of people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Jonah, and often the nation of Israel generally, God brought to pass events which foreshadowed a pattern of life that would be later followed by ‘one greater than Solomon’, one who was David’s greater Son.’
It was revealed to them…when they spoke – Cf. Mt 13:17.
The same Spirit of Christ who inspired the prophets is the Holy Spirit sent from heaven who has now proclaimed the gospel to Peter’s readers.
Even angels long to look into these things – Angels are not omniscient, Mk 13:32; Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 2:6–9.
‘The remark underlines how fortunate are those living to see and experience personally the fulfillment of the prophecies (compare Mt 13:16–17; Lk 10:23–24).’ (Marshall)
Two things are taught here: that angels long to understand the gospel, but that they cannot. They long to understand the gospel, because they love and admire their Creator. But they cannot understand the gospel of salvation, because they have no experience of it: the relationship of angels to God is one of obedience service, or, in the case of the fallen angels, of disobedient opposition. Of all the creatures it is only we humans who can experience and understand grace. The church nevertheless provides a glorious demonstration of the manifold wisdom of God to the ‘rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’. (Eph 3:10) Cf. the wonderment of the angels at Jesus’ birth, Lk 2:13.
‘The object of this reference to the angels is the same as that to the prophets. It is to impress on Christians a sense of the value of that gospel which they had received, and to show them the greatness of their privileges in being, made partakers of it. It had excited the deepest interest among the most holy men on earth, and even among the inhabitants of the skies. They were enjoying the full revelation of what even the angels had desired more fully to understand, and to comprehend which they had employed their great powers of investigation. The things which are here referred to…, are those which the prophets were so desirous to understand-the great truths respecting the sufferings of Christ, the glory which would follow, and the nature and effects of the gospel. In all the events pertaining to the redemption of a world they felt a deep interest.’ (Barnes)
‘What is he doing on the cross? What is he doing between two thieves? What is he doing taking the wages of sin? What do you think the angels thought? Which things the angels peer down to see! (1 Pet 1:12) They can understand human mortality because human beings are sinners. But what is he doing on the cross? We can imagine the whispered voices going through Paradise: ‘Have you heard? He has borne the wages of sin! He has died! His blood has been shed, the blood of the Son of God!’ Watch HIM there: God’s own Son, the sinless one, receiving the wages of sin.’ (McLeod, A Faith To Live By)
1:13 Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
At this point in the letter, as Marshall remarks, the mood changes from the indicative to the imperative. ‘First must come the gospel and only then the response to it. First we hear of what God has graciously done for us, and then of what we are to do in obedience to him.’
‘The thoughts developed here have their origins in the story of the people of Israel, redeemed from Egypt and called to a life of holiness. Here the church is said to be like Israel. Later on the church will be virtually identified as the new Israel of God.’ (Marshall)
Therefore – the hope of which Peter has just written does not only bring assurance regarding the future: it prompts holy living in the present. The apostle’s practical counsel will continue, more or less without interruption, throughout the rest of the letter.
Get your minds ready for action – lit. ‘gird your minds for action’. The image is taken from Ex 12:11. We are always to be ready – ready for action, ready for holiness.
‘The language can…be traced back to Exodus 12:11 where the Israelites, about to leave Egypt, are told to eat the Passover, dressed and equipped to start out on the long and tough journey without delay. So too Peter’s readers are to set out on their journey to the “Promised Land” and must be ready for action. To go out as Christians on pilgrimage through the world demands vigor.’ (Marshall)
Fully sober, in context, refers to a calm and alert mind; one that is not intoxicated by the things of this world (Mk 4:19; Col. 3:2–3; 1 Jn 2:15–17). As Grudem remarks: ‘We today might well consider the dangers presented by such inherently ‘good’ things as career, possessions, recreation, reputation, friendships, scholarship, or authority.’
Marshall thinks that ‘Peter’s command here is without question to be taken on the literal level, as 1 Pet 4:3–4 makes clear.’ But perhaps he goes too far in arguing, from these texts, for total abstinence. Both passages deal with abuse, rather than use, of alcohol.
Hope, in the New Testament, characteristically entails something more assured than mere wishful think. It conveys (writes Grudem) ‘a sense of confident expectation, an expectation strong enough for one to act on the basis of it (see Luke 6:34; 23:8; Phil. 2:19, 23)’, a sense which in the present context is made even stronger by the addition of the word completely.
The grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed – Set your sights on ‘the further store of undeserved blessings which God will pour out on them when Christ returns’ (Grudem).
‘Peter constantly thinks of what will be bestowed by God in the future at the Second Coming of Jesus. More and greater blessings are in store for Christians than we at present enjoy, and one of the incentives for Christian living should be our sense of anticipation of what God will give to us at the End.’ (Marshall)
1:14 Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, 1:15 but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, 1:16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.”
Obedient children – Peter will continue in this vein of filial obedience until 2:3.
Do not comply is the equivalent of Paul’s ‘do not be conformed’ (Rom 12:2).
Their former lives were characterised by passions, or evil urges. These are the ‘sinful desires which lead people to direct disobedience to God’s laws (1 Pet 2:11; 4:2, 3; 2 Pet. 1:4; 2:10, 18; 3:3)’ (Grudem).
‘The fact that Peter could give such a command implies that he knew that such desires still remain and have some power in the hearts of true Christians. Yet he also implies that he agreed with Paul (Rom. 6:11, 14; Gal. 5:24) that the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work has broken the ruling, dominating force of those desires, and that it is possible for Christians to have a significant measure of victory over them.’ (Grudem)
Ignorance – ‘of God and of his ways’ (Grudem, referencing Acts 3:17; 17:30; Eph. 4:18).
Like the Holy One who called you – The idea of ‘calling’ is prominent in this letter (see also 1 Pet 2:9, 21; 3:9; 5:10). Frequently, in biblical thought, God’s call is more than an invitation: it is a summons. It is, in other words, an ‘effectual’ call.
Become holy yourselves in all of your conduct – that is, separated from evil and dedicated to a life that is pleasing to God. And this, not now and then and in some things but not others, but always and in every department of our lives.
This holiness ‘involves not only avoiding outward sin but also maintaining an instinctive delight in God and his holiness as an undercurrent of heart and mind throughout the day.’ (Grudem)
‘Be not sometimes hot, and sometimes cold; at one time careful, at another time careless; one day in a spiritual rapture, and the next in a fleshly frolic: but be ye holy… “in all manner of conversation,” in every creek and turning of your lives.’ (Flavel)
It is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy” – Lev 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7 [LXX]; Lev 20:26.
‘Peter does not feel compelled to justify applying this command to the members of the church. Although they are in large part Gentiles, they have come into the people of God. What was said to Israel in the Old Testament is now applicable to them. To be sure, the way in which the command is to be kept has altered. In Leviticus God was concerned with the ritual of the sacrificial system as well as with ethical requirements. But Peter freshly applies it in accordance with the basic principle of living in a way that is appropriate for God’s people.’ (Marshall)
1:17 And if you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work, live out the time of your temporary residence here in reverence.
If you address as Father – ‘call on for help, appeal to’ (Grudem).
The one who impartially judges according to each one’s work – Grudem thinks that this refers primarily (or even exclusively) to God’s discipline in the present life. Cf. 1 Pet 4:15; Heb 12:5-11.
The One who is our Father is also our Judge.
‘Membership in God’s family, great privilege though it is, must not lead to the presumption that disobedience will pass unnoticed or undisciplined.’ (Grudem)
Reverence – A sense of awe from having been struck with who God is and an alertness that results from that. Grudem thinks that ‘reverent fear’ (NIV, and, by implication, ‘reverence’) is too gentle to express the apostle’s meaning to modern readers: ‘Fear in this context means primarily ‘fear of God’s discipline’.’
1:18 You know that from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors you were ransomed—not by perishable things like silver or gold, 1:19 but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ.
Ransomed – delivered from slavery or captivity by the payment of a price.
They were ransomed from [their] empty way of life inherited from [their] ancestors – They have been removed from one sphere of life to another.
Peter was writing at a time when ancestral wisdom was highly valued. In our own time, we may think we are not so influenced by the patterns of belief and behaviour of our forebears, but such thinking is probably delusional.
It is remarkable that Peter refers to the most precious and durable of metals as perishable. In contrast, the precious blood of Christ is imperishable. It is as efficacious now as it ever has been.
By the blood of Christ the apostle means ‘his death in its saving aspects’ (Grudem, following Leon Morris).
- Cleanses the conscience, Heb 9:14
- Redeems us to God, 1 Pet 1:19
- Secures our forgiveness, Eph 1:7
- Justifies, Rom 5:9
- Sanctifies, Heb 13:12
- Opens the door to heaven, Heb 10:19
- Gives us the victory, Rev 12:11
(Pickering, 1,000 Subjects, slightly adapted)
‘By the blood of Christ our consciences are cleansed (Heb. 9:14), we gain bold access to God in worship and prayer (Heb. 10:19), are progressively cleansed from more and more sin (1 John 1:7; cf. Rev. 1:5b), are able to conquer the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:11), and are rescued out of a sinful way of life (1 Pet. 1:19).’ (Grudem)
‘Labour for this high privilege of justification. There is balm in Gilead; Christ has laid down his blood as the price of our justification; and he offers himself and all his merits to us, to justify; he invites us to come to him; he has promised to give his Spirit, to enable us to do what is required. Why then, sinners, will ye not look after this great privilege of justification? Why starve in the midst of plenty? Why perish when there is a remedy to save you? Would not he be thought to be distracted, who having a pardon offered him, only upon the acknowledgment of his fault, and promising amendment, should bid the prince keep his pardon to himself; for his part, he was in love with his chains and fetters, and would die? Thou who neglectest justification offered thee freely by Christ in the gospel art this infatuated person. Is the love of Christ to be slighted? Is thy soul, is heaven worth nothing? Oh then look after justification through Christ’s blood!’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)
‘To suspend the operation of a law of nature (as to stop the sun in his course), is merely an exercise of power. But to save sinners from the curse of the law, required that Christ should be made a curse for us; that he should bear our sins in his own body on the tree; that he should be made sin for us, and die the just for the unjust. (Gal 3:13; 1 Pet 2:24; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 3:18) It would be a reflection on the wisdom of God, to suppose that he would employ means to accomplish an end more costly than that end required. Could our redemption have been effected by corruptible things, as silver or gold, or could the blood of bulls and of goats have taken away sin, who can believe that Christ would have died?…Since, in order to the pardon of sin, the death of Christ was necessary, it is evident that the evil of sin in the sight of God must be estimated by the dignity of him who died for our redemption.’ (Charles Hodge, The Way of Life, 51f)
But now, after this mention of the blood of Christ, comes a second aspect of his atoning death, for he was offered as a sacrifice; as a lamb without blemish or defect. See Jn 1:31; cf. Isa 53:7; 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 9:14; Rev 5:6, 12.
‘But what did it mean for Christ to be a sacrifice: to be the ‘lamb without blemish and without spot:’? (1 Pet 1:19) It meant that he was the one to whom sin was imputed. In the Old Testament ritual the offerer put his hand on the head of the sacrifice, confessed over it the sins of which he was guilty and thus transferred them symbolically to the victim. In the Christian doctrine of the atonement Christ is the one to whom sin is transferred, not only by the imputation of God, but also by his own assumption of it. He loved the church, and took her liabilities and debts to himself. (Eph 5:25) The New Testament’s language on this is bold in the extreme: ‘He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us’. (2 Cor 5:21) Christ on that cross took his identity from sin, bearing all it deserved. He became the sin of his people. He came to be identified with their guilt and liable to their punishment. And because he was Sin, he became a curse. (Gal 3:13) There was no mitigation and no sparing. There was only the absolute recoil of God from the sin his Son was. He was katara: cursed, banished. He was his Son, but his sonship was obscured by the anomia. The Son belonged in his bosom; the anomia belonged in the Black Hole. God put the whole universe, and more, between himself and the Son of his love. He banished him to the farthest edges of reality; and even beyond, because the Black Hole is what lies beyond reality. It is, absolutely, Outside: (Rev 22:15) the place of Outer Darkness (Mt 8:12) where the Sin borne by the Lamb is out of sight of the God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.’ (Hab 1:13) (McLeod, A Faith to Live By)
1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake.
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world – The Gk word is ‘proginōskō‘, and translated ‘chosen’ (NIV); ‘foreordained’ (AV); ‘predestined’ (NEB). The Gk
‘It follows from what is said in this verse,
(1.) that the atonement was not an after-thought on the part of God…
(2.) It was not a device to supply a defect in the system…
(3.) The creation of the earth must have had some reference to this plan of redemption…’ (Barnes)
1:21 Through him you now trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Trust – ‘pistis‘ can, in some contexts, mean ‘faithful’; ‘trustworthy’. But here reliance on God is the meaning, as the end of the sentence makes clear.
‘When Peter says that it is ‘through’ Christ that they trust God he rules out any idea that Christians should ‘fear God but trust Christ’. Rather, as Christians trust in Christ they are also through Christ trusting in God.’ (Grudem)
God is both to be feared (v17) and trusted. The two are not mutually exclusive.
1:22 You have purified your souls by obeying the truth in order to show sincere mutual love. So love one another earnestly from a pure heart. 1:23 You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 1:24 For
all flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of the grass;
the grass withers and the flower falls off,
1:25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.
You have purified – may refer to the once-for-all purification which takes place at conversion, or the on-going purification which takes place as the Christian grows in holiness. Grudem inclines towards the second of these interpretations.
Love one another earnestly – ‘deeply’ (NIV). The word ‘denotes supreme effort, lit. ‘with every muscle strained’.’ (NBC)
The living and enduring word of God ‘is either the spoken word of God (in gospel proclamation) or the written word of God (in the Bible), or both, since the quotation from Isaiah 40:6–8 in the following verse refers to the words of God spoken and/or written through the Old Testament prophets.’ (Grudem)
‘The Greek is unclear whether it is God or his word that is living and enduring. In a sense both are true, as the word proceeds from God’ (NBC).
The quotation is from Isa 40:6-8.
And this is the word that was proclaimed to you.
‘The implications for evangelism are obvious: ultimately it is neither our arguments nor our life example that will bring new life to an unbeliever, but the powerful words of God himself—words which we still have preserved today in Scripture. It is in reading or hearing these words that people are given new life.’ (Grudem)