Introduction

Simon Peter—“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers” (1 Pet. 1:1).

Peter has been called the ignorant fisherman, but no man who had spent three years in the school of Jesus could be called ignorant. The Epistles of Peter confirm this. Peter deals with doctrine and handles weighty subjects. In the first few verses he deals with the great doctrines of election, foreknowledge, sanctification, obedience, the blood of Christ, the Trinity, the grace of God, salvation, revelation, glory, faith, and hope. My friend, you just couldn’t have any more doctrine crowded into a few verses! The way in which he handles these great themes of the Bible reveals that he was by no means an ignorant fisherman.

A great change is seen in the life of Peter from these epistles. He had been impetuous, but now he is patient. He was bungling, fumbling, and stumbling when he first met Jesus. Our Lord told him in effect,“You are a pretty weak man now, but I am going to make you a Petros, a rock–man. And you will be built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ who is the Rock.” Peter made it very clear that the Lord Jesus is the Rock on which the church is built. It is very interesting that although his name means “rock,” he says that all believers are little rocks also: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). In other words, he is saying that every believer is a Peter. Simon Peter never takes an exalted position, as we shall see in his epistles. As he opens his epistle, he calls himself an apostle—he is just one of them. Although whenever the names of the apostles were enumerated, his was always first on the list, and although the Lord chose him to preach the first sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he did not feel that he was exalted above the others.

Peter wrote his epistles after Paul had written his epistles, somewhere between A.D. 64 and 67, after bloody Nero had come to the throne and persecution was already breaking out. According to tradition, Peter himself suffered martyrdom.

“The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son” (1 Pet. 5:13). There are those who think that Babylon is used here in a symbolic manner or in a metaphorical sense and that Peter really meant Rome. However, there is no reason for him to use it in a metaphorical sense. Peter was an apostle who did not write in a symbolic manner such as we find used by John in the Book of Revelation. Peter writes very literally and practically. He gets down to where the rubber meets the road, right down on the asphalt of life. I believe that if he had meant Rome, he would have said Rome.

My own opinion is that Simon Peter never did go to Rome. I think he was in Asia Minor, the great heart of the Roman Empire, but he was not the apostle who opened up that territory. I think he followed Paul. Paul would not have gone to Rome if Peter had already been in Rome preaching the gospel there, because Paul made it very clear that he went into places where the gospel had not been preached before. Since Rome was on Paul’s itinerary, it seems obvious that Paul, not Peter, founded the church at Rome.

Another very valid argument to indicate that Peter was in Babylon rather than Rome is based on the list of places which he addresses: “To the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1:1). All those places are in Asia Minor (the area which is called Turkey today). In listing them, he moves from east to west. This suggests that the writer was in the east at the time of writing. The natural and ordinary way to list geographical places is beginning from the point where you are. When I am in California and talk about going east, I would say that I am going through Arizona, Texas, and finally New York. It is normal to begin where I am and to name the places in sequence. Since Peter lists the places from east to west, it would seem logical that he was in literal Babylon.

After the Babylonian captivity, only a very small group of Jews returned to their land—actually there were fewer than sixty thousand. There was still a great colony of Jews in Babylon. Additional Jews had fled to Babylon when severe persecution began under Claudius in Rome. We know, for example, that Priscilla and Aquila fled to Corinth from Rome. Many others fled to Babylon. There was persecution both of Christians and of Jews. Since we know that the ministry of Peter was primarily to the Jews it seems most logical that he ministered to Jewish colonies in Asia Minor, and particularly in Babylon. Babylon was still a great city there on the Euphrates River, and many of the Jews had remained there after the end of the Captivity.

In spite of the fact that Papias mentions the death of Peter as occurring in Rome, there is no substantial historical basis for this supposition. I see no reason to discount the fact that Simon Peter was the apostle to those of the nation of Israel who were scattered abroad. I believe Peter went east while the apostle Paul went west.

The great theme of this epistle of Peter is Christian hope in the time of trial. Although Peter deals with great doctrines and handles weighty subjects, he doesn’t write in a cold manner. Peter has been called the apostle of hope while Paul has been called the apostle of faith and John has been called the apostle of love. This epistle puts a great emphasis upon hope, but I believe that the word which conveys the theme of this epistle is suffering. Peter also emphasizes the grace of God, and some expositors feel it is his main emphasis. However, the word suffering or some cognate words that go with it occur in this epistle sixteen times. Hope is always tied with the suffering. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that the theme is the Christian hope in the time of trial.

Peter will have a great deal to say about the suffering of Christ. The suffering of Christ has been dealt with by the writer of the Hebrew epistle and by James in his epistle. Also the prophets certainly mentioned it. However, Peter will handle the subject a little differently.

Peter speaks out of a rich experience. Dr. Robert Leighton, in his book, A Practical Commentary on First Peter, makes a very timely comment that applies to Simon Peter. Let me share this with you because it is worth noting:

"… it is a cold and lifeless thing to speak of spiritual things on mere report; but when men can speak of them as their own—as having share and interest in them, and some experience of their sweetness—their discourse of them is enlivened with firm belief and ardent affection; they cannot mention them, but straight their hearts are taken with such gladness as they are forced to vent in praises."

For this reason, Simon Peter, while writing of suffering, emphasizes joy!

This leads me to say something very important regarding young preachers. In this day we have about us some very wonderful young expositors of the Word. I thank God for them. However, as I have listened to two or three of them, I feel very much as Dr. G. Campbell Morgan felt in his day. He and his wife went to hear a young preacher in whom they were particularly interested. He was eloquent, fine looking, and he delivered a great sermon. Afterward, on the way home, Mrs. Morgan was profuse in her praise and was surprised that Dr. Morgan made no response. Finally she asked, “Don’t you think he is a great preacher?” He answered, “He will be after he suffers.” Well, time went by, and this young man found out by experience what it cost to stand for Christ. He went through persecution; he experienced problems in his church; and one day he stood at an open grave as he buried one of his little children. Dr. Morgan and his wife went to hear him again because they loved this young man. After the service Mrs. Morgan asked,“Well, what do you think of him now?” Dr. Morgan answered, “He is a great preacher.” You see, suffering had made the difference.

This has been my personal experience also. As a young preacher, I spoke a great deal about standing for the Lord and about suffering. I used to go to hospitals and pat people on the hand and pray with them. I would tell them that the Lord would be with them. At that time I was a professional preacher, saying what I did not know to be true from my own experience, although I believed it. But the day came when I went into the hospital myself. Another preacher came in and prayed with me. When he started to go, I said to him, “I’ve done the same thing you have done. I’ve been here, and I have told people that God would be with them. Now you are going to walk out of here, but I am staying, and I will find out if it is a theory or if what I have been telling people is true.” Friend, I found out it is true. Now it is no longer a mere theory. I know it by the fact that the Word of God says it and by the fact that I have experienced it. I don’t argue with people about these things any more because there are certain things I know. I would never argue with you about whether honey is sweet or not. If you don’t think it is sweet, that is your business. I had some this morning for breakfast, and I know it is sweet. That is the knowledge that comes from experience.

Simon Peter is not going to give us his theory of suffering. Simon Peter is going to speak to us out of his own tremendous experience, and it will become very wonderful to us as it becomes your experience and my experience.

(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 54: 1 Peter. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)

Poems & Quotes

1 Peter Introduction

"…It is a cold and lifeless thing to speak of spiritual things on mere report; but when men can speak of them as their own–as having share and interest in them, and some experience of their sweetness–their discourse of them is enlivened with firm belief and ardent affection; they cannot mention them, but straight their hearts are taken with such gladness as they are forced to vent in praises."
          –Robert Leighton, A Practical Commentary on First Peter

1 Peter 1:2

"Having recognized the sovereign right of God over His creation and having assigned to Him a rational purpose in all His plan, the truth contained in the doctrine of election follows in natural sequence as the necessary function of one who is divine."
          –Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology

The Reverend Mr. Harcourt, folk agree,
Nodding their heads in solid satisfaction,
Is just the man for this community!
Tall, young, urbane, but capable of action,
He pleases where he serves.
He marshals out the younger crowd,
Lacks trace of clerical unction,
Cheers the Kiwanis and the Eagle Scout,
Is popular at every public function.
And in the pulpit eloquently speaks on divers matters
With both wit and clarity–
Art, education, God, the early Greeks,
Psychiatry, St. Paul, true Christian charity,
Vestry repairs that shortly must begin–
All things but sin.
He seldom mentions sin.
          –Author unknown

1 Peter 1:3-6

"…foreknowledge in God is that which He Himself purposes to bring to pass. In this way, then, the whole order of events from the least detail unto the greatest operates under the determining decree of God so as to take place according to His sovereign purpose. By so much, divine foreknowledge is closely related to foreordination. Likewise, foreknowledge in God should be distinguished from omniscience in that the latter is extended sufficiently to embrace all things past, present, and future, while foreknowledge anticipates on the future events."
          –Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology

1 Peter 1:10-16

I Needed the Quiet

I needed the quiet so He drew me aside,
Into the shadows where we could confide,
Away from the bustle where all the day long
I hurried and worried when active and strong.
I needed the quiet though at first I rebelled.
But gently, so gently, my cross He upheld
And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things.
Though weakened in body, my spirit took wings
To heights never dreamed of when active and gay.
He loved me so greatly He drew me away.
I needed the quiet. No prison my bed,
But a beautiful valley of blessings instead–
A place to grow richer in Jesus to hide,
I needed the quiet so He drew me aside.
          –Alice Hansche Mortenson

1 Peter 2:5-12

Higher Education

I don't have a Ph.D., or credits from Purdue,
But, I have learned a lot in life as I've been passing through.
I have a course of study, perhaps of it you've heard.
A Book known as the Bible, God's own Holy Word.
It teaches how God sent His Son, redeeming sinful man.
In Him believe, by faith receive; not, "Do the best you can."
You'll never need a credit card, because salvation's free.
Accept Christ as your Saviour. How happy you will be.
I'm in my last semester, and I can hardly wait
To wear my brand new cap and gown at Baccalaureate.
When on my graduation day I leave this world of strife,
I'll read on my diploma, "Received Eternal Life!"
          –Author unknown

1 Peter 3:1-9

"I am out speaking in Bible conferences a great deal. When I come home, I am not looking for an assistant pastor, I'm not looking for an organist, I'm not looking for a soloist, and I'm not looking for the president of the missionary society. I want a woman there to meet me who is my wife and whom I can put my arms around and love."
          –Lewis Sperry Chafer, speaking to Dr. & Mrs. McGee on the duties of a preacher's wife

1 Peter 4:1-4

Religion

If you've got religion, you don't know it.
If you know it, you haven't got it.
And if you've got it, you can't lose it.
And if you lose it, you didn't have it.
And if you never had it, you can't get it.
          –Author unknown

1 Peter 4:1-12

The Bible and the TV Guide

On the table side by side,
The Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
One is well-worn but cherished with pride,
Not the Bible, but the TV Guide.
One is used daily to help folks decide.
No, it isn't the Bible; it's the TV Guide.
As pages are turned, what shall they see?
Or what does it matter? Turn on the TV!
Then confusion reigns and they can't all agree
On what they shall watch on the old TV.
So they open the book in which they confide,
No, not the Bible....It's the TV Guide.
The Word of God is seldom read,
Ere maybe a verse as they fall into bed.
Exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be,
Not from reading the Bible, but from watching TV.
Then back to the table side by side
Is the Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
No time for prayer, No time for the Word.
The plan of salvation is seldom heard.
Forgiveness of sin so full and free
Is found in the Bible, not TV.
          –Author unknown

1 Peter 4:12-19

What God Hath Promised

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
          –Annie Johnson Flint

In The Crucible

Out from the mine and the darkness,
Out from the damp and the mold,
Out from the fiery furnace,
Cometh each grain of gold.
Crushed into atoms and leveled
Down to the humblest dust
With never a heart to pity,
With never a hand to trust.
Molten and hammered and beaten
Seemeth it ne'er to be done.
Oh, for such fiery trial,
What hath the poor gold done?
Oh, 'twere a mercy to leave it
Down in the damp and the mold.
If this is the glory of living,
Then better to be dross than gold.
Under the press and the roller,
Into the jaws of the mint,
Stamped with the emblem of freedom,
With never a flaw or a dint.
Oh, what a joy, the refining,
Out of the damp and the mold.
And stamped with the glorious image,
Oh, beautiful coin of gold!
          –Author unknown