Survey of the Book of I Peter

It has been observed that persecution can cause either growth or bitterness in the Christian life. The Apostle Peter tried to prepare the Christians "of the dispersion"-those resided as aliens, as one translation put it-for the persecution that would come.

It is believed that I Peter was written about AD 64, just before the outbreak of the persecution under Nero. Though Nero's name is generally associated with the persecution of Christians, he was nothing compared to Domitian who followed him. Domitian tortured and tested Christians in virtually every way imaginable. Some were fed to the lions. Many died by the sword. Simon Peter was, according to tradition, crucified upside down after refusing to be crucified rightside up like his Lord. Some Christians were impaled on sheared-off tree stakes in Domitian's garden and wrapped in tow-sack-like cloth, soaked in oil and ignited to provide light for Domitian's midnight strolls.

Peter acknowledges that they are about to be severely tried. But he also reminds them of who they are-a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, and the people of God (I Peter 2: 9, 10). Christians are more likely to sin when they forget who they are, and sometimes they need reminding. Peter reminds them to abstain from fleshly lusts and the ways of the world (2: 11, 12) since they are special people.

I Peter 2: 13-17 had commands that were not easy for the Christians of the time to uphold-submitting themselves to authorities when on so many occasions, the authorities were despicable human beings. There are times when the Christian submits because of the office. Other passages as well tell the same thing (Romans 13: 1-7).

The early part of I Peter 3 has commands that are reminiscent of Ephesians 5. Husbands and wives get along best when they function within their assigned roles. Husbands can lead far more gently when wives are submissive within the Lord. Husbands should not lord it over their wives, but "dwell with them according to knowledge" (3: 7).

I Peter 3: 18 - 22 has been a difficult passage to understand. That baptism saves (v. 21) is not hard to understand, but the part about Christ preaching to the souls in prison in the time of Noah seems best interpreted as Christ being in the personality of Noah as he preached and tried to get people to repent as he labored on the ark. This avoids speculation about a doctrine of the second chance, which would run contrary to the urgency of Jesus' teachings in such places as the entire 25th chapter of Matthew.

Chapter four has more encouragements to Christians, appropriate then and appropriate to Christians now. It should be remembered that all who attempt to lead righteous lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (II Timothy 3: 12); if we encounter no persecution, we are not living the Christian life.

Chapter 5 talks about elder/junior relationships. The "She who is in Babylon" likely refers to the church as it lived in the Roman empire rather than in Babylon itself since Babylon was not an important figure in the secular world at the time. Rather, Babylon represented evil and excess and rather was a good metaphor for Rome.

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