For the first time in his epistle, Peter directly addresses the local church’s elders or leaders. While it appears odd to shift from trials and judgment to church leadership, the segue is quite natural. In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter said that “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” Peter was alluding to Malachi 3 and Ezekiel 9, where God’s judgment began at the Temple. Presently, the Church is the Temple of God. Thus, God’s judgment begins with the Church. More specifically, in light of Ezekiel 9:6, God’s judgment upon His Temple starts with the elders. Hence, Peter addresses the elders of the church with a challenge so that they can avoid the judgment that the unregenerate will face. Peter will address the people of the church in light of this judgment in 1 Peter 5:5-9.
Living in light of the coming judgment is recognizing that Jesus Christ is Lord. As believers submit to His Lordship they will discipline their minds to be serious and sober, display love that is fervent and forgiving, direct hospitality to those advancing the Gospel, and develop their spiritual gifts.
Today, as in Peter’s day, believers live in a world that is hostile towards them. Peter writes this epistle to exhort and encourage scattered, suffering, and slandered believers to stand for Christ amidst paganism and godlessness. Already, he has addressed the behavior of believers towards suffering. Now, in 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter addresses three specific responsibilities believers must maintain in a hostile world.
Having concluded his discourse on submission, Peter returns to his exhortation of suffering in 1 Peter 3:13-22. Peter previously addressed the suffering of believers in 1 Peter 2:22, exhorting believers to perform good deeds. In so doing, the pagans would inspect the good deeds of believers and glorify God in the day of visitation. Now Peter turns his attention to the behavior of the suffering. How are believers to behave when suffering persecution from the hostile world in which they live?
In writing about submission, Peter has applied specific doctrines to each realm of submission. He applied the doctrines of holiness and obedience to the realm of government (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17). Next, Peter applied the doctrines of salvation and obedience, to the realm of work (cf. 1 Peter 2:18-25). He then applied the doctrines of love and obedience, to the realm of family (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6). As Peter now summarizes his exhortation on submission, he returns to the doctrine of love. Writing a final word on submission, to all believers, Peter concludes with a twofold admonishment — love one another (1 Peter 3:8) and love one’s enemies (1 Peter 3:9-12).
The family unit became the foundation of society. All other social structures find the family unit as their foundation. Social scientists view marriage as a foundational social institution because of its cross cultural and geographical nature. David Blankenhorn states that regardless of the variation in marital customs within different cultures, “marriage at its core is a woman and a man whose sexual union forms the basis of an important cooperative relationship.”
Society is only as strong as it foundation. If the foundation is destroyed then what happens to other societal institutions such as the government and the church? The answer is simple — they will be weakened. Thus, Peter sets forth the duty of mutual submission between husbands and wives in 1 Peter 3:1-7.
Continuing his exhortation on submission, Peter moves from the realm of government (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17) to the realm of employment (cf. 1 Peter 2:18-25). Later Peter will deal with submission in the realm of the family (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6) and the church (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-5). Not only are believers to submit to hostile and corrupt governments, but they are to submit to workplace authorities, whether they are good or evil, because of the salvation they have been given. As such, believers are called to be suffering, submissive servants, following the example of Christ the Suffering Submissive Servant.
Beginning in 1 Peter 2:11, the focus changes from the one’s creed to one’s conduct. Previously, Peter has dealt with doctrinal truths for scattered and suffering believers — salvation, obedience, holiness, and love. Now, he begins to practically demonstrate how those truths should play out as one lives and works in a hostile and pagan society. First Peter 2:11-17, begins with a practical application of holiness. Believers must live as aliens and strangers in a pagan culture. Peter then continues with a practical application of obedience. Believers must live in obedience to a pagan government.
Without a doubt, believers face many pressures. Pressures, such as being scattered and suffering can cause one’s priorities to take a back seat. Thus, Peter reminds believers that they are newborn babies and living stones. As such they must pursue their priorities to feed on God’s Word, sacrifice to God, and proclaim His praises, even under pressure.
Peter gives another command — love one another -- to help believers combat the loneliness of being scattered. In 1 Peter 1:22-25, Peter enunciates the idea that though scattered, believers are still a family — brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, he exhorts them to demonstrate sacrificial and brotherly love towards one another because they are purified and born again. These believers are scattered, but loving one another. Being scattered does not hinder believers from loving one another, instead it made the command all the more important.
Previously, Peter encouraged his readers to live their blessed life by being prepared, obedient, and holy. Preparation is continuously saturating one’s mind in God’s Word. Obedience is following the Law of God. Holiness is exhibiting a lifestyle different from this hostile, pagan world. Of these three actions, the hardest is to be holy, notably when scattered and suffering.
In the Greek, 1 Peter 1:17-21 forms a single sentence and is a midrash or exegesis on the quote from Leviticus 19:2 — “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Striving to be holy is not easy nor does it not come automatically; it requires motivation. Peter provides two motivations for holy living — the chastening of God and the cost of redemption.
1 Peter 1:13-16 needs to be etched into the Christian's minds, now more than ever. The current age of rage and cancel culture has resulted in an increase in slander and hostility against Biblical Christianity. Believers must not succumb to the pressure to conform to the whims and wishes of paganism. Believers must be prepared, be obedient, and be holy. When they do, they will live their blessed life, even during difficult days.
As Peter continues to write, he tells believers that they are blessed and have a reason to rejoice. Imagine telling someone going through hard times to rejoice because they are blessed? For most, it is the last thing they would want to hear. Some of his readers were facing martyrdom for their faith. Others were being treated unjustly by employers and spouses because of their faith. Nevertheless, Peter will demonstrate that believers are blessed and rejoicing amid trials because they have a living hope, inexpressible and glorious joy, and the Old Testament prophecies.
In many ways, the Twenty-first Century Church is facing a similar situation to the recipients of Peter's Epistles. The global pandemic has scattered local churches around the world. Additionally, the current age of rage has resulted in an increase in slander and hostility against Biblical Christianity. Christians need to know how to respond to these trials critically, logically, and most important, Biblically!