Introduction

What is the Book of 1 Peter About?

Read this 4-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read 1 Peter!

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Historical Context

The apostle Peter wrote this letter (1 Peter 1:1). He was once a fisherman but now was a disciple, a “witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 5:1 ESV).

From Bibles.net: Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote 1 Peter for your good and to lead you into joy.

[Peter] probably wrote the letter from Rome (see 1 Peter 5:13; “Babylon” almost certainly refers to Rome) around AD 62–63 during Nero’s reign. The letter is addressed to Christians scattered in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1 ESV). This is an area north of the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). These territories had been impacted by Greco-Roman culture and had been under Roman control from the mid-first century BC.

Christ followers in Peter’s day dealt with a lot of the same problems that we do. They were socially ostracized for refusing to participate in the sins of the Roman culture in which they lived—activities such as throwing criminals to wild beasts for sport while crowds cheered. Another reason Christians were scorned in those days was that they believed that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Their intolerance of other religions and lifestyles infuriated mainstream society. For all these reasons, the threat of persecution hung heavily in the air like humidity on a tropical August day [during summer in America].

Nero was the emperor of Rome when Peter wrote his letters, and that’s important to note because he was writing to people who were living under Roman authority. Nero came to power as a teenager, but because he was so young, he ruled under the authority of his mother for several years before asserting his independence. Nero distrusted many, if not most, people throughout his reign, including his family members, and perhaps for good reason. In those days, the assassination of rulers was a common occurrence, and Nero had numerous enemies. In AD 64, not long after Peter wrote his letters, a raging fire consumed much of the city of Rome. Nero’s enemies held Nero personally responsible for the fire. As a way to deflect this bad press, Nero in turn blamed the Christians, which kicked off wide-scale persecution that was characterized by hideous suffering.

This was the world in which the apostle Peter conducted his ministry, and it gives us the background for both of his letters. He wrote the first one a year or two before the great fire in Rome and the second a year or so afterward, when the threat of horrible persecution was closing in. Knowing a bit about Peter’s world gives us context for the themes of his letters.

–Lydia Brownback

Source: Content taken from 1-2 Peter: Living Hope in a Hard World © 2021 by Lydia Brownback. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The Setting of 1 Peter 

c. AD 62-63 

Peter, probably writing from Rome (called “Babylon” in 5:13), addressed 1 Peter to believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These names all referred to Roman provinces in Asia Minor, north of Taurus Mountains.

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Books
Message Series

Church at the Edge of the World by Reuben Hunter

Check out this helpful 9-part message series by Reuben Hunter. Reuben clearly and directly explains God’s Word from 1 Peter to us, equipping us to live hopeful and holy lives in a world that opposes our faith in Jesus.

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1 Peter Dictionary

As you read through 1 Peter, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

Heavenly beings created by God before he created Adam and Eve. Angels act as God’s messengers to men and women. They also worship God.

To have faith or to trust that something is true. The Bible tells us that we can believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and trust him to keep his promise to forgive sins. We show that we believe that God loves us and wants what is best for us by obeying his commands.

To praise or make holy. The word bless is used in different ways in the Bible: (1) When God blesses, he brings salvation and prosperity and shows mercy and kindness to people. (2) When people bless, they (a) bring salvation and prosperity to other persons or groups; (b) they praise and worship and thank God; (c) they give good things or show kindness to others.

The Greek word that means “God’s Chosen One.” “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning the same thing. Jesus was the Christ.

A large stone in the foundation of a building at the corner of two walls, holding the two walls together. The cornerstone is the first and most important stone laid when a building is started. Jesus is called the cornerstone of a Christian’s faith in God because he is the most important part of knowing who God is.

The deportation of and emigration of Jews from the Promised Land. The term usually focuses on the Assyrians’ forced relocation of people from the northern kingdom of Israel to distant locations throughout the Assyrian Empire. While large numbers of people from Judah who were exiled in Babylon did return, there was no similar restoration for the people of Israel.

Someone who has been made to leave his or her country and live somewhere else. The Jews were exiles in Babylon for 70 years.

(1) Great beauty, splendor, honor, or magnificence that can be seen or sensed. The Israelites saw the glory of the Lord in the cloud that filled the tabernacle. The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord when the angels told them Jesus had been born. (2) To praise; to be proud or happy; to boast.

Pure; set apart; belonging to God. God is holy. He is perfect and without sin. Jesus is holy too. He is without sin and dedicated to doing what God wants. Because Jesus died to take the punishment for sin and then rose again, people who believe in him have the power to be holy too. God helps them to become more and more pure and loving, like Jesus.

A person who does not worship the true God, especially a person who worships idols.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because he does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

What the Bible Is All About NIV Henrietta Mears

Dictionary Source

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?

Insights

The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of 1 Peter.

Imagine what it would be like to receive a letter from someone who was a personal friend of Jesus during his earthly ministry. That’s exactly what we have in the New Testament correspondence known as 1 and 2 Peter. Peter is known as a thundering paradox of a man. On the one hand he is known for his impetuosity, for his vacillating between faith and doubt, for his treachery of public denial of Jesus at the time of Jesus’ greatest peril. On the other hand he is known for his magnificent confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi where, without hesitation, he declared his confidence that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

This is the testimony of a man who not only was part of the entourage of Jesus during his earthly ministry but was also an eyewitness of the resurrection and part of the inner circle of disciples in the great triad of Peter, James, and John. These three were present on the Mount of Transfiguration and were able to see with their own eyes the glory of the transfigured Christ.

A letter from a man such as this is a treasure for the church. His letter, beyond the value of his own eyewitness testimony and his intimate friendship with Jesus, carries with it the weight of the divine inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. What Peter says to the church is merely an extension of what the Lord and Master, Christ, says to the church…

—R. C. Sproul

Source: 1-2 Peter: An Expositional Commentary by R.C. Sproul. © Ligonier Ministries 2019. Used by permission of Ligonier Ministries. All rights reserved. 

The book moves in a fluid manner between two poles: the riches that believers have in Christ and the duties they need to shoulder, within the implied situation of their living in a hostile surrounding culture. First Peter is exuberant in tone and exalted in language. Virtually every paragraph contains vivid imagery and a skillful use of figurative language. The tone of the book is urgent and intense, as signaled by the presence of more than 30 imperative verbs (an average of one command in every three verses). The content and style are thus elevated and elevating.

—ESV Study Bible

Source: Taken from the ESV® Study Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Making sense of suffering, most especially the suffering we experience just because we are Christians, is going to be one of our main takeaways from Peter’s first letter. Peter wants us to be firmly convinced that our suffering doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us or that he expects us to bear hardship in a teeth-gritting sort of way. To the contrary, suffering is an instrument God uses to produce hope in our hearts and to purge out the miserable contamination of sin. And the hope we get isn’t just about our final home in heaven—it’s for blessings in this life too. We are invited to enjoy God’s saving promises here and now through our union with our Savior Jesus Christ.

—Lydia Brownback

Source: Content taken from 1-2 Peter: Living Hope in a Hard World © 2021 by Lydia Brownback. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The notion of being sprinkled with blood, and the sacrifices required to produce such blood, can sound archaic or crude to modern ears. Yet the Bible frequently mentions the manipulation of blood sacrifices in order to make atonement. The term atonement, which expresses the thought of “making at one,” refers to bringing two estranged parties together. Atonement law in Exodus 24 required the death of an unblemished, spotless, “perfect” animal to bring God and man back together. In this ritual, the person was sprinkled with the blood of the perfect sacrifice. Why? Because the reason for the estrangement, the crime, had to be dealt with, or “atoned” for. The death of the sacrifice was a substitute for the punishment and death of the sinner. These sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus, who died the death we deserved and sprinkled us with the proof that we do not have to die. This is a deep grace that brings two estranged parties, God and man, back together so that we can live “at one” with God. In this profound display of mercy, we receive grace while God receives glory.

—Jonathan K. Dodson

Source: Content taken from 1–2 Peter and Jude: A 12-Week Study © 2017 by Jonathan K. Dodson. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

And then Peter adds that salvation includes being sprinkled with Christ’s blood. Writing about blood in the greeting of a letter might seem to us a bit, well, in poor taste. But to the contrary, Peter includes it to spread joy. He’s saying that all our sin—past, present, and future—has been taken care of by the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross. That’s how we are sprinkled. It’s symbolic, but by the power of God it’s also very real. The point is, because we’ve been sprinkled with Christ’s blood, we don’t have to shed our own blood and die to pay for our sin.

—Lydia Brownback

Source: Content taken from 1-2 Peter: Living Hope in a Hard World © 2021 by Lydia Brownback. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. 

In 1 Peter 2:4, Peter turned to another metaphor for Christ, calling him “a living Stone—rejected by humans but . . . precious to [God]” (NIV). Everyone in this world has to do something with this “Stone,” Christ Jesus. He is in every person’s path. We can put him in as the chief cornerstone of our lives, which is God’s will. If we do not, we must stumble headlong over him, tragically, to our death. To many people in the first century, Jesus was a stumbling block and a rock of offense. To many today, he is that same thing. What have you done with this precious cornerstone? Is he in his rightful place in your life?  

—Henrietta Mears  

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

1 Peter Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of 1 Peter.

Living Hope
by Phil Wickham | Praise & Worship
Aliens
by Brother Bo feat. ASAP Preach and Tony Vega | Hip Hop
Cast My Cares (My Portion)
by The Worship Initiative and Shane & Shane | Praise & Worship
Where Would I Be?
by Christy Nockels | Folk
1 Peter Song (I Want to Be Holy)
by Matt Papa | Contemporary
All Flesh Is Like the Grass
by Fernando Ortega | Contemporary 
When Trials Come
by Keith & Kristyn Getty | Praise & Worship
Angels Wish
by Steven Curtis Chapman | Contemporary
The Church’s One Foundation
by Indelible Grace Music | Hymn
Song of the Beautiful Bride
by Paul Wilbur | Contemporary
Cornerstone
by The Worship Initiative and Shane & Shane | Praise & Worship
One Day
by The Worship Initiative feat. Bethany Barnard | Praise & Worship
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