New Defender's Study Bible Notes
Introduction to I Peter
The two epistles of Simon Peter were, like those of James and Hebrews, written to the Christian Jews of the dispersion (I Peter 1:1; II Peter 3:1), evidently intended to be circulated among their churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, all of which were Roman provinces in the area that is now called Turkey. At least some of these provinces—and probably all—were represented by pilgrims who had believed on Christ at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Peter had been the spokesman and preacher on that great day and probably felt continuing interest and concern for these pilgrims as they returned to their homes. As the one to whom was committed the special “apostleship of the circumcision” (Galatians 2:8), his ministry thereafter always was directed especially toward winning his Jewish brethren to Christ, wherever they lived in the world.
His epistle was written “at Babylon” (I Peter 5:13), and delivered “by Silvanus,” with the purpose of reminding his Jewish Christian brethren that “this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand” (I Peter 5:12). Silvanus was the same as Silas, who had been with Paul on his second missionary journey for a time (Acts 15:40–18:5). Mark also was with Peter at the time (I Peter 5:13), and he, like Silas, had been with Paul both early and late in Paul’s missionary career. Somehow both had come to be associated with Peter at this time, however.
Christians have long disputed over whether the Babylon from which Peter wrote was the actual city of Babylon on the Euphrates or was a cryptic name for Rome. Since Babylon was still a large city at this time, with a large Jewish population, at least some of whom had become Christians at Pentecost (note the mention of “dwellers in Mesopotamia” in Acts 2:9), and since the recipients of Peter’s letter lived geographically closer to Babylon than Rome, it would have been at least quite confusing to these readers if Peter had meant Rome when he said Babylon. The great Neronian persecution did not break out in Rome until some time after the epistle was written, and Peter was writing to help believers prepare for coming persecution anyway (note I Peter 4:12-13), so there would likely have been no good reason for him not to say Rome if that is what he meant.
Although Peter, no doubt, did go to Rome and—according to tradition, at least—eventually was martyred there, there is no good evidence that he founded the church at Rome or ever served as bishop there for any length of time. He had certainly not been in Rome before or during the time Paul was under house arrest there (Acts 28:30). There is no mention of Peter being in Rome either in Acts or in any of Paul’s epistles.
The date of writing of I Peter is believed to be about A.D. 63, after the martyrdom of James in Jerusalem (which, according to Josephus, occurred in A.D. 62.) and before the great persecution of Christians instigated by the Emperor Nero in A.D. 64–65. It was during the course of the latter that Peter himself was martyred—according to one tradition, at least, crucified upside down.
Most authorities, especially those of the early church, accepted the Petrine authorship of this epistle without question. Some modern critics have alleged that the language is too eloquent for an unlearned Galilean fisherman. They are wrong in this, for Peter was not ignorant, even though he was a fisherman. His sermons as recorded in Acts reveal not only an eloquent command of language but also a profound knowledge of Scripture (note Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43; 11:4-17; 15:7-11). There is no legitimate reason to doubt that Peter wrote this epistle, possibly using Silas as an “amanuensis,” or secretary.
The epistle is incomparably rich in spiritual vitality and filled with love for the Lord whom Peter once had denied. He stresses Christ’s atoning death (I Peter 1:18-20; 2:21-24; 3:18) and glorious resurrection (I Peter 1:3-4,21; 3:21-22). A dominating theme is that of willingness on the part of believers to face persecution and suffering for Christ’s sake (I Peter 1:6,7; 2:19-21; 3:14-17; 4:12-19).
There are also practical exhortations to holy living (e.g., I Peter 1:15,16), to obedience to civil governments (I Peter 2:13-17), to strong marital relationships (I Peter 3:1-7), to Christian humility (I Peter 5:1-7), and to the defense of the faith (I Peter 3:15).
1:1 Peter. Peter apparently wrote this first epistle from Babylon (see I Peter 5:13) which was still a thriving city at the time, even though it had lost most of its former glory. There was a large Jewish community there, and Peter had evidently gone there to evangelize them and plant a church.
1:1 strangers. These persecuted Jewish Christians may have been viewed as “strangers” to those among whom they lived, but in God’s sight they were “elect” (I Peter 1:2). The phrase “strangers scattered” means, in effect, “foreigners, dispersed” from their homeland. The five Roman provinces were all in what is now Turkey. Presumably Peter had also worked in the churches of these provinces. Cappadocia, in particular, was not too far from Babylon. Thus Peter’s epistles, like that of James, were written primarily to Jewish Christians of the dispersion, although it is evident that there were also Gentiles in the churches.
1:2 foreknowledge. The “foreknowledge” of God involves more than just knowing ahead of time the choice that a given person will make, for “known unto God are all His works from the [foundation] of the world” (Acts 15:18), and He “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Those whom He foreknew He then created as “the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory” (Romans 9:23). This in no way inhibits anyone who wants to be saved from coming to Christ, for He has invited all to “come unto me” (Matthew 11:28), with the assurance that “whosoever will” may come (Revelation 22:17). The natural man, however, in his own mind “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:14), and chooses not to come. The Father, in inscrutable ways, draws to Christ those whom He foreknew and made His elect. “No man can come to me,” said Jesus, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). We cannot, in our finite minds, comprehend the infinite mind and ways of God (Romans 11:33-36), but we can, and must, believe His Word. See also the note on I Peter 1:20.
1:2 obedience. The proof that we have been foreknown by God and are among His elect is that we are obedient to His Word, for we have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
1:2 multiplied. Paul normally began His epistles with “grace and peace” (e.g., Romans 1:7), but Peter begins with grace times peace! Marvelous is the implication of infinite grace (II Corinthians 8:9) multiplied by infinite peace (Philippians 4:7). The product can only be eternal fullness of joy (John 15:11).
1:3 begotten us again. “Begotten again” is the same as “born again” in I Peter 1:23.
1:3 lively hope. “Lively”—that is, our hope in Christ is made vibrantly alive by His resurrection, which guarantees forever the ultimate defeat of Satan, sin and death, and the fulfillment of His promise of everlasting life. On this hope, see also I Peter 1:13,21.
1:4 incorruptible. Contrast I Peter 1:23-24. Corruptible seed generates only glory that fades away, whereas the incorruptible seed generates an incorruptible inheritance that will never fade away. I Peter 1:4 says the inheritance is reserved for us, whereas I Peter 1:5 assures us that we are reserved for the inheritance!
1:5 kept. “Kept” means “being guarded.” Our keeping is not by our works or even by our faith (though it is received through faith), but by the power of God. We are in His hand (John 10:29).
1:7 praise and honour and glory. These may represent three classes of rewards for believers at the judgment seat of Christ. See I Corinthians 3:11-15. On “praise,” see I Corinthians 4:5; on “honour,” see John 12:26, and on “glory,” see Philippians 3:21. Perhaps these are rewards given to those Christians who bear fruit for Christ, “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23).
1:8 having not seen. Compare John 20:29. “Blessed are they,” Jesus said, “that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
1:11 Searching. This is a striking affirmation of the nature of Biblical inspiration—in particular, of those portions of Scripture which contain Messianic prophecies. The prophets were so carried along by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21) that they themselves did not understand what they were prophesying. Note, for example, Daniel 12:8-9, where Daniel was told that his words were “sealed till the time of the end.”
1:11 glory that should follow. Typical prophecies that referred both to the sufferings and later glory of the Christ included Psalm 22, Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53.
1:12 angels. It is amazing to realize that even God’s holy angels (probably also Satan and the fallen angels) are observing with great interest the unfolding of God’s great plan of salvation, both in individual human beings and for the whole creation. For further glimpses into this fascinating subject, study such Scriptures as Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 34:7; Matthew 18:10; I Corinthians 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; and many others.
1:13 gird up. This expression, meaning to be serious and thoughtful rather than shallow and flippant in attitude, comes from the custom of gathering up one’s flowing robe (the customary dress of the day, even for men) and tying it up around the loins, in order to free the feet and legs for running or for working at certain manual tasks. Note Luke 12:35; 17:8; Acts 12:8.
1:14 obedient children. Read “children of obedience” (compare Ephesians 5:8; contrast Ephesians 2:2).
1:14 fashioning. “Fashioning” is the same word in the Greek as “conforming.” Its only other use is in Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed to this world.”
1:15 conversation. “Conversation” includes not only our speech, but all aspects of conduct.
1:16 it is written. See Leviticus 11:44-45.
1:17 every man’s work. Note the emphasis on “work” rather than “works.” God will judge our life’s work as a whole, especially the work of believing on Christ. Note John 6:28-29; James 1:4.
1:17 fear. This fear is not cowardly fear, of course, but reverential fear of God our Judge (note Luke 12:4-5; Hebrews 12:28; contrast Romans 3:18).
1:18 redeemed. To “redeem” means to “ransom” or “buy back,” especially the redemption of a bondservant by a kinsman (Leviticus 25:49). But the first use of the Hebrew word (gaal), thus establishing the primary theme throughout Scripture, speaks of “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil” (Genesis 48:16). This could only have been the one called “the Angel of the Lord” in many Scriptures (e.g., Genesis 16:7), often in fact a theophany, or preincarnate appearance of Christ, who in His incarnate appearance would ultimately become the true Redeemer of the lost world which had been enslaved to Satan and sin. See also such Scriptures as Ephesians 1:7, 11; Hebrews 9:12; and Revelation 5:8-9.
1:18 silver and gold. Money payment was made by a kinsman-redeemer to purchase back an indentured relative (Leviticus 25:48), but silver and gold are “corruptible things”; in fact, the whole world is in “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21), and can only be redeemed by an adequate price paid in incorruptible legal tender. Nothing but the shed blood of Christ can meet such a requirement, purchasing total and eternal redemption (Romans 3:24; Hebrews 9:12).
1:19 without spot. Under the Mosaic system, a temporary atonement (i.e., “covering”) could be obtained for forgiveness of sins by offering the blood of an unblemished and unspotted lamb (Exodus 12:5; Numbers 28:3). But this merely served as a type of the future offering of the blood of Christ, without contamination by either inherent sin or practiced sin. He would become “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The sinlessness of Christ is often affirmed in Scripture (e.g., II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:22; I John 3:5; John 8:29).
1:20 foreordained. “Foreordained” (Greek proginosko) is the verb form of the noun (prognosis) better translated as “foreknowledge” in I Peter 1:2. Just as God foreknew that Christ would become the Savior, because the triune God had so ordained, so He also foreknew those who would be saved by Him.
1:20 foundation of the world. Before God ever created the world, in the mind of God, Christ had been sacrificed, and the names of the redeemed were known (see Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8; 17:8; II Timothy 1:9).
1:22 obeying the truth. Note that truth (that is, God’s Word), if obeyed, will generate a purified soul and genuine love.
1:23 corruptible seed. Not only is all seed (the assurance of continued plant, animal, and human reproduction) corruptible, but so is our own human flesh (I Corinthians 15:53) and, indeed “the whole creation” (Romans 8:22). However, we have been redeemed by the incorruptible blood of Christ (I Peter 1:19) to an incorruptible inheritance (I Peter 1:4), an incorruptible body (I Corinthians 15:53), and an incorruptible crown (I Corinthians 9:25), to serve an incorruptible King (I Timothy 1:17), all revealed and activated through the incorruptible, eternal Word of God (I Peter 1:23).
1:24 flower of grass. I Peter 1:24-25 is essentially a quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8.
1:25 endureth for ever. For more on the eternal nature of God’s Word, see also Psalm 119:89, 160; Matthew 24:35; 5:18; Psalm 12:6-7.
1:25 gospel. Note that the “everlasting gospel” includes creation as its very foundation (Revelation 14:6-7).