Introduction to 1 & 2 Peter

By James M. Rochford

Authorship

Critics contend that Peter did not write these letters. Yet numerous reasons support the assertion that Peter wrote both of these letters traditionally ascribed to him:

First, these letters both claim to be written by Peter the apostle. Both letters open with the claim that these were written by Peter (1 Pet. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1). In his second letter, Peter writes, “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you” (2 Pet. 3:1). The author also calls himself as a “witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet. 5:1). We should believe in the self-identification of the author, unless there are good and sufficient reasons not to.

Second, 1 Peter 5:13 aligns with the record of the early church. If we take Peter’s mention of “Babylon” to refer to Rome, this would fit with Peter being in Rome during this time. Moreover, the mention of “Mark” fits with early church history as well. These “throw away comments” are undesigned coincidences that fit with Peter’s authorship.

Third, there are a number of similarities between the Petrine letters and Peter’s speeches in the book of Acts. Blomberg writes, “Some writers have detected various similarities between the style and contents of 1 Peter and Peter’s various sermons in Acts or sayings in the Gospels.”[1]

Fourth, the early church fathers cite these letters early, or ascribe them directly to Peter. Several attestations are important:

  • Clement of Rome (AD 95) cites from the letter. Clowney writes, “The attestation of the letter in other writings is early and strong. The earliest is the reference in 2 Peter 3:1. Clement of Rome (before the end of the first century) quotes from the letter, although he does not identify his quotation.”[2]
  • Polycarp (AD 130) cites portions of 1 Peter in his Epistle to the Philippians.[3]
  • Papias (AD 110) cited portions of 1 Peter according to Eusebius (Church History, 3.39.17.).
  • Irenaeus (AD 180) cites 1 Peter 1:8 (Against Heresies, 4.9.2).
  • Tertullian (AD 200) attributes authorship to Peter (Tertullian, Scorpiace 12).
  • Origen (AD 250) attributes authorship to Peter according to Eusebius (Church History, 6.25.8).
  • Eusebius (AD 325) accepted the letter. Grudem writes, “Writing in AD 325, Eusebius includes 1 Peter among those books everywhere recognized as belonging to the New Testament (EH25.2.). Wherever it was circulated, it was accepted as genuine.”[4]

This is interesting to consider, because the so-called Gospel of Peter, Revelation of Peter, and Acts of Peter were all rejected by the early church. And yet, both of these letters were accepted. If the early church did not care about phony authorship, then they would have much preferred a longer book (or books) written by “Peter,” rather than a couple of measly letters.[5] Michael Kruger summarizes the data,

Justin Martyr makes a striking allusion to 2 Peter 2:1 in his Dialogue with Trypho (Dialogue, 82.1), Irenaeus appears to cite it (Haer. 5.23.2), and Hippolytus also seems to show knowledge of it (Hippolytus, Haer. 9.7.3; 2 Pet. 2:22). Clement of Alexandria wrote a now-lost commentary on 2 Peter, Origen cited it six times and clearly received it as canonical Scripture, and Eusebius considered it to be part of the ‘disputed’ books in the canon that were nevertheless known to most of the church… It was widely received by such figures as Jerome, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Augustine.[6]

Despite this evidence for Peter’s authorship (i.e. Petrine authorship), critics have challenged the authorship of the letter. For instance, Beare writes, “There can be no possible doubt that ‘Peter’ is a pseudonym.”[7] Let’s consider several arguments advanced by the critics.

ARGUMENT #1: The Greek is too polished for Peter to have written it.

In his book Forged, NT critic Bart Ehrman writes,

[1 Peter was written by a] highly educated Greek-speaking Christian who understood how to use Greek rhetorical devices and could cite the Greek Old Testament with flair and nuance. That does not apply to the uneducated, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking fisherman from rural Galilee, and it does not appear to have been produced by a secretary acting on his behalf.[8]

This is probably the most popular argument against Petrine authorship. But does it hold water? A number of observations can be made:

First, Acts 4:13 does not teach that Peter was illiterate. In Acts 4:13, we read, “As they [the Sanhedrin] observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed…” This passage does not teach that Peter and John were illiterate; it teaches that they were unschooled. Grudem writes, “Although agrammatos can at times mean ‘illiterate, unable to read or write’, it can also mean ‘not formally educated’, and would readily have that nuance next to idiotēs, ‘common man, layman, non-expert’ in Acts 4:13.”[9] Remember, the religious leaders held this same view of Jesus, claiming that he was also uneducated by the standards of their day (Jn. 7:15).

The Sanhedrin (who had condemned Jesus to death; Mark 14:55) probably did not consider Peter’s years spent with Jesus as a formal education because they hated Jesus. By the standards of the Sanhedrin, Peter was not highly educated. This would be similar to Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting (1997), stumping an Ivy League student in math or history. While his character is brilliant in the film, he only had a high school education. Therefore, it would be within the rights of the Ivy League brat to call Will Hunting “uneducated.”

Grudem notes that Hellenization from Alexander the Great had progressed throughout Judea for four centuries at this point. Many of the cities around Galilee spoke and wrote in Greek, and hundreds of Jewish ossuaries (or bone-boxes) have been uncovered that were written in Greek and Hebrew, showing that the people were bilingual.[10] According to Josephus, even slaves learned Greek (Antiquities, 20.263).

In addition, this is a lot to hang on one verse of the Bible. In this short exchange with the Sanhedrin, they couldn’t have known if Peter was actually illiterate because he never tries to read anything! Finally, if Peter was truly illiterate, then why isn’t this mentioned anywhere else?

Second, thirty years transpire between Acts 4:13 and 1 Peter. By modern standards, this would be enough time to get three PhD’s. Consider Peter’s role in the early church during this time. Peter was one of the central leaders in the early church, and he was expected to debate and teach publicly throughout the ancient world (Acts 2:14ff; 3:12ff). Is it not possible that Peter gained a better education in this three decade gap of time? Maybe this is even why he waited so long to write a letter. It’s possible that he didn’t feel competent in writing until he had become better educated toward the end of his life. Furthermore, D.A. Carson writes, “Rabbi Akiba was apparently unlettered until the age of forty, and then became one of the greatest rabbis of his generation; it would not be surprising if some of the leaders of the church, decades after its founding, had devoted themselves to some serious study.”[11]

Third, Peter also could have used an amanuensis (pronounced uh-man-you-EN-sis) to write this letter. In 1 Peter 5:12, we read, “Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly.” In other words, Peter may have utilized Silvanus as his scribe to help write his letter. Similarly, Paul used an amanuensis in writing the book of Romans (Rom. 16:22). In first century culture, it was common to utilize a scribe to write a letter like this. Others argue that this language simply implies that Silvanus (Silas) was a letter carrier—not a letter writer.[12] Grudem writes,

This sentence gives little support to the view that Silvanus was involved in the actual writing of the letter. The Greek phrase meaning ‘to write to someone by someone else’ is nowhere else clearly seen to mean ‘to dictate a letter with the help of someone else’. Kummel notes, ‘No-one has yet proved that graphō dia tinos can mean “to authorize someone else to compose a piece of writing” ’. On the other hand, there are clear cases where this same Greek construction is used to designate the messenger who carries a letter to someone: note Acts 15:23, for example (Greek text: ‘through the hand of them [Judas and Silas]’).[13]

For this reason, this final point carries less weight. However, this still would not preclude Peter using an amanuensis, which was a common practice at the time.

ARGUMENT #2: The persecutions mentioned in 1 Peter occur after Peter’s death.

Peter refers to the “fiery trial” (1 Pet. 4:12), which was occurring “throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:9). Critics argue that this must refer to the empire-wide persecutions of Rome, which would late-date this letter after the apostle Peter had died (~AD 67).

This argument does not hold much weight. Worldwide persecution in the Roman Empire did not occur until the end of the second century. However, 1 Peter was quoted in the beginning and middle of the first century by the early church fathers. Blomberg writes, “No period within the first 150 years of Christian history saw empire-wide persecution of believers; this would take place only much later. Yet 1 Peter is quoted by early-and mid-second-century Christian writers, so we know if had to have been written by then.”[14] Peter’s mention of persecution could simply be hyperbolic language about the persecution of the Roman Empire—similar to Paul’s hyperbolic language of the gospel reaching the “whole world” (Rom. 1:8). For a case that Peter was writing the letter from Rome, see comments on 1 Peter 5:13.

Date

Peter wrote these letters sometime between AD 62 and AD 68.

After AD 62. Peter wrote from Rome (1 Pet. 5:13), and he wrote his second letter immediately before dying. Yet Paul never mentions Peter in his prison epistles—written from Rome. Grudem writes, “If we date Paul’s prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon) between AD 60 and 62, when Paul was in prison in Rome, it is interesting that he nowhere in these four letters mentions Peter.”[15] If Peter was in Rome with Paul, it’s odd that Paul would write, “I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:20-21). Apparently, Peter hadn’t made it to Rome until after these letters were written.

Before AD 68. The early Christian leaders held that Peter died by persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero, who committed suicide in AD 68. Dionysius (the bishop of Corinth, AD 170) wrote, “[Peter and Paul] also taught in Italy in the same place and were martyred at the same time” (Cited in Eusebius, Church History, 2.25.8). In the context of writing about Rome, Tertullian (AD 200) wrote, “How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! where Peter endures a passion like his Lord’s!” (Against Heretics, 36). Eusebius also recorded that Origen (AD 250) claimed that Peter was crucified upside down, and Paul was beheaded in Rome under the reign of Nero (Church History, 3.1.2-3). Eusebius adds that Peter “composed this [1 Peter] in Rome itself” (Church History, 2.15.2), and Eusebius states that he received this information from Papias (AD 110).

Audience

While Peter was at first associated with Jewish evangelism (Gal. 1:18; 2:7-8), there are many reasons to believe that he led in Gentile-dominated churches later in life. Peter was initially an “apostle to the Jews” (Gal. 2:8 NLT), but he was not permanently an apostle to them. Peter made his way to Greece, which was a predominantly Gentile church (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5). Moreover, after Peter breaks out of jail, the book of Acts mysteriously tells us: “Then he left and went to another place…” (Acts 12:17). Peter pops up at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:7). However, besides this reference, we simply don’t know where Peter served.

Peter specifically mentions Christians in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1:1), but these could be either Jewish believers or Gentile believers. However, when we read through his letter, we find many references to Gentile Christians:

(1:18) Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.

(2:10) For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

(4:3) For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.

For these reasons, we should infer that this was a Gentile-dominated church.

Peter’s relationship to Paul

Peter makes a reference to having difficulty reading Paul’s letters (2 Pet. 3:15-16), so we know that Peter had copies of Paul’s material. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in the winter of AD 56-57, and Peter was in Rome immediately after this time. In 1 Peter 2, Peter seems to be interacting with Romans 9-10. In fact, he quotes the same string of OT verses that Paul does. This is such a “coincidence” that it leads us to think that Peter was reading Paul’s work. It would be like seeing the “coincidence” of two term papers with the same citations in it: you would conclude that one was copying from the other.

  • Romans 9:33 and 1 Peter 2:6 both quote Isaiah 28:16 (“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”).
  • Romans 10:11 and 1 Peter 2:6 both quote Isaiah 28:16 (“Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed”).
  • Romans 9:25 and 1 Peter 2:10 both quote Hosea 1:10 (“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people’”).

These are all signs that Peter had a copy of Romans in his hand when he wrote his book.

Commentary on 1 Peter

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

(1 Pet. 1:1-21) Gird Your Minds. 8

(1 Pet. 1:22-2:3) The Word of God. 13

(1 Pet. 2:4-10) Christian community. 14

(1 Pet. 2:11-25) Following Christ in a hostile world. 17

(1 Pet. 3:1-7) Living in a fallen marriage. 19

(1 Pet. 3:9-22) Responding to intimidation. 20

(1 Pet. 4:1-19) Suffering. 22

(1 Pet. 5:1-7) Leadership. 26

(1 Pet. 5:8-14) Satan. 28

Commentary on 2 Peter. 31

(2 Pet. 1:1-9) God changes lives. 32

(2 Pet. 1:14-21) The stability of the word. 35

(2 Pet. 2:1-22) Counterfeit Christianity. 36

(2 Pet. 3:1-18) The end of human history. 40

(1 Pet. 1:1-21) Gird Your Minds

(1:1) “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Peter is writing to scattered Christians from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. The term “aliens” is similar to our modern term “foreigners” or “illegal aliens.” It refers to travelers or sojourners, or a “man without a country.” As Christians, our “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:21).

(1:2) “[Believers] are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

(1:2) Are some “chosen” for heaven and others “chosen” for hell?

(1:3) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The expression “born again” carries baggage in our culture. Many people think of street preachers draped in billboards that say, “REPENT! THE END IS NIGH!” when they hear this expression. Yet the term is a beautiful concept that was inaugurated by Jesus himself. In talking to a religious leader named Nicodemus, Jesus said, “You must be born again” (Jn. 3:8). Those who meet Christ are a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV). Just like we were born physically, we need to be born spiritually. Meeting Christ is like starting our lives all over again: a clean slate and a fresh start. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, Christ can cleanse and change you.

Even though we are dead to sin, we have been “raised up with Him” (Eph. 2:6). While billions of people have died, only Jesus has risen from death. This is our “living hope.”

(1:4) “To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” Our heavenly Father is rich beyond measure. We are his inheritors. When we die or Christ returns, we will inherit the kingdom from the King.

(1:5) “Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” How likely is it that I’m going to lose my salvation? It’s the same likelihood that a thief could break into God’s house and steal from him! While everything else in this world is shakable and breakable, our salvation is imperishable, undefiled, and “protected by the power of God.”

Those who deny eternal security note that our security is conditional—namely “through faith.” Though Karen Jobes writes, “Peter’s choice of verbs here suggests that though the heirs may be in peril, nothing less than the power of God himself watches over them. Paradoxically, it is their faith in Christ that has put them in jeopardy with respect to their society, but it is that very faith in Christ that identifies them as legitimate heirs, whom God powerfully protects.”[16]

(1:6) “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” During suffering, we are still able to rejoice or give thanks. We don’t give thanks for the suffering, but for our identity in Christ as outlined in the previous five verses (“In this you greatly rejoice…”).

(1:7) “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This expression is similar to James 1:3 (“the testing of your faith produces endurance”). This concept of God testing us like a smelter with precious metal is found throughout the Bible. The Psalmist writes, “You have tried us, O God; you have refined us as silver is refined” (Ps. 66:10). The Proverbs state, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts” (Prov. 17:3). Peter returns to this metaphor in 4:12.

The expression “the proof of your faith” (dokimion) means “the process or means of determining the genuineness of something, testing, means of testing” or “genuineness as result of a test, genuine, without alloy” (BDAG). This was a term used for metallurgy, where gold would be smelted in a crucible. As a result, the impurities would float to the top, and the impure film would be skimmed off the top. The more times the gold was smelted, the purer it would be.

The testing of our faith is currently revealed through suffering, but it will eventually be revealed at the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Interestingly, we are the ones who will receive the praise, glory, and honor. Blum writes, “God will set his stamp of approval on faith that has been tested and show this when Christ is revealed. Then the believer will openly share in the praise, glory, and honor of God.”[17] Grudem concurs, “It seems more likely that the initial thought is of praise which God gives to his people, since in this context Peter is encouraging his readers to hope in their heavenly reward.”[18] Marshall agrees, “Christians will receive recognition from God; their faith in him will be vindicated.”[19]

When we suffer, we (rightly) think that we should do this for the glory of God. But God wants to give that glory, praise, and honor to us!

(1:8) “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” We don’t always have gushing feelings for God during times of suffering. But if you’ve never felt any emotions for God, that’s a red flag (“you love Him… greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible”).

Believing is not necessarily based in directly seeing (cf. Jn. 20:28; 2 Cor. 5:7). These Gentile Christians in the AD 60s had never seen Christ, but they trusted in the apostolic message. So too, modern people trust in this same message, coming to faith through evidence, personal experience, prayer, the love of Christians, and many other means.

Peter is connecting our love for God with our experience of suffering. While this might be counterintuitive, he might be saying that we experience love for God in a unique way during suffering.

(1:9) “Obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” We will be saved in the future (glorification), but we are being saved right now in the present (sanctification).

(1:10-11) “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.” The prophets knew many of the facts surrounding the coming Messiah, but key portions were omitted to them. Specifically, they didn’t know that the Messiah would come to suffer and die for the people (see “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”).

(1:12) “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” Even angels didn’t know that the Messiah would come to die for the people.

Why does Peter bring up God’s plan in this part of the letter? He seems to be showing that we are incredibly privileged to inherit the culmination of this plan. Consider a family planning a wedding for their daughter. The time and resources involved show the importance of the wedding day. Similarly, God has been working his plan for eons, and now we are currently inheriting it.

Peter also brings this up at this point to show how God’s people in the past were given limited knowledge of the future, and God’s work (through Christ) far exceeded what they could’ve ever imagined. Similarly, suffering believers today can’t see how God is going to use their suffering in the future, but if the past is any indicator, we will be blown away.

(1:13) “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The term “prepare” (anazosamenoi) literally means “bind up” or “gird up.” Literally it refers to the binding “of long garments to facilitate work or walking” (BDAG). Before you go out to work, you needed to tie up your garments to work, tightening your clothes. It’s important that we are prepared to suffer, having a mind that is sharpened for it. Like a football player waiting to hear, “Hut, hut, HIKE!” we brace for impact. Otherwise, we will feel blindsided when suffering strikes.

Peter writes that we also need to be “sober in spirit.” Many people try to self-medicate during suffering, distract themselves, or ignore it. The Christian is to focus on the grace of God during suffering, letting it break us down and sculpt us into a stronger instrument in the Lord’s hands (Acts 9:15-16). This expression (“be sober”) is used later in the context of spiritual warfare (1 Pet. 5:8).

(1:14-16) “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” The term “holiness” (hagios) means “pertaining to being dedicated or consecrated to the service of God” (BDAG). It carries the meaning of being distinct, unique, separate, or set apart. In this context, it refers to being separate from the “former lusts” and the way of life that we knew before.

How should Christians be distinct or different from our culture? Should it be in the movies we watch? The music we listen to? The books we read? Not at all! We should be distinct in our love and our worldview!

Some people are scared to break from conformity, and it is scary to be different from the culture. But as followers of Jesus, we’re supposed to be counter-cultural in the best sense. Our lives are to be filled with love for God and others.

This call seems similar to Paul in Romans 12:1-2, where the change and transformation begins in the mind—not just the behavior.

This concept of holiness derives from the OT, and Peter cites particularly from the book of Leviticus (Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 20:7).

(1:17) “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.”

(1:17) Are we supposed to fear God or not? (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19)

(1:18) “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” Many people fall right into line with the faith, values, and worldview of their parents without really thinking through their faith for themselves. Peter encourages this group for choosing the harder path—namely, choosing for the truth of Christ.

(1:19) “But with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” Here is true value: the blood of Christ. Someone can buy you a gift, give you money, or speak kindly to you. But Christ bled for us. Like a good father, God doesn’t just tell us that he loves us or buy us things. He demonstrated his love through the ultimate sacrifice of his son.

(1:20-21) “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” There is a certain privilege to be in the Church Age. God’s plan hasn’t always had the privileges of having such a radically personal relationship with God through Christ. The resurrection is the hope of the Christian faith: Just as Jesus was raised, we will be raised with him.

Discussion questions

Based on verses 4-5: If we didn’t have security in our salvation, how might this affect our relationship with God day to day?

Based on verse 6: Why do you think that Peter brings up the security of our salvation in relationship to suffering? How does reflecting on the security of our salvation affect our ability to suffer victoriously?

Based on verse 14: Play the clip from the show South Park about the conformity of even “non-conformist” groups like goths. Then ask, “How would we know if we are conforming or being a conformist? What would be some signs of being a conformist?”

Is it wrong to conform? If not, where do we draw the line?

What would you say to someone who said, “Why should I resist conformity? I’m comfortable conforming!”

(1 Pet. 1:22-2:3) The Word of God

(1:22) “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.” This is the thesis of the holy life mentioned earlier in verses 14-16: love for others.

“Sincere” (anypokriton) means to not be hypocritical or “literally not play acting” (BDAG). Christian love isn’t supposed to be a plastic smile we tattoo onto our face. It’s an authentic commitment to others.

“Fervently” (ektenos) pertains to “being persevering, eagerly, fervently, constantly” (BDAG). It’s the word used of Jesus praying fervently in the garden of Gethsemane, while he sweat drops of blood (Lk. 22:44).

(1:23) “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” It must have been mysterious for ancient people to watch plants grow. As you plant and water the seed, it grows slowly on its own. The same is true with the word: you can’t expect to see results in a day or two. Over a few weeks or months, however, you begin to see major changes in your life. Even reading the word builds our faith (Rom. 10:17). When we sit under the word long enough, it begins to change us. It’s amazing to watch skeptics sit through several weeks or months of Bible teaching, only to discover how much it changes their attitude toward God.

(1:24-25) “For, ‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word which was preached to you.” Peter cites Isaiah 40:6-8 to show that Scripture has an eternal impact and quality. As we read through Scripture, we are understanding the thoughts and mind of God. This means that the Bible is stable, immutable, and powerful.

(2:1) “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” Peter uses the same language as Paul: putting off and putting on. This isn’t self-willed change, but instead, we put off the old self by turning to the truth of Scripture. As we read, study, and meditate on what God says about us, God works in us to effect change.

We need a willingness to follow God to benefit from the word. These things (“malice… deceit… hypocrisy… envy… slander”) can cloud our view of the word, which is mentioned in verse 2 (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14). When you approach the Bible, do you want to hear from God? Or have you made your mind up already on your own views of the world?

(2:2-3) “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Babies don’t make themselves grow. Instead they cry out for their mother’s milk, and it grows them radically. My son nearly tripled in size from his birth until his first birthday. The same is true of us when trying to grow spiritually.

We can read the word, but not long for it. Longing implies a relationship—namely, longing to meet with our Heavenly Father.

Babies eat food every couple of hours. Right from the beginning, babies know how to do this. Similarly, believers need a regular diet on God’s word.

A baby might be cute when it cries in between feedings, but what if they stayed in this condition? The same is true of the believer who never learns to feed themselves with the Bible.

Discussion questions

(Read through 1:22-2:3) What do we learn about the Bible from this section?

(Based on 1:23-25) Why do you think Peter compares studying the Bible to plants growing? In what ways is reading the Bible similar to growing grass? In what ways is it different?

(Based on 2:2) Why do you think Peter compares studying the Bible to a baby drinking his mother’s milk? In what ways is this similar? In what ways is it different?

What is our role in reading the word versus God’s role in speaking to us?

(1 Pet. 2:4-10) Christian community

We can ask three questions of this passage:

(1) What is Christian community? (vv.4-6)

(2) How do we become a part of Christian community? (vv.7-9a)

(3) What is our mission as a Christian community? (vv.9b-10)

(1) What is Christian community?

(2:4) “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God.” God’s view of things is different than ours. As an example, God views Jesus as precious, while the world despises him. Why does Peter call Jesus a living stone? Most commentators connect this with Jesus’ resurrection. Stones and rocks are dead, but Jesus is alive. Grudem writes, “The fact that Christ is the living stone shows at once his superiority to an Old Testament temple made of dead stones, and reminds Christians that there can be no longing for that old way of approach to God, for this way is far better.”[20]

(2:5) “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Just like Jesus is a living stone, we are also living stones. This refers to our corporate identity in Christ.

In the old covenant, only the Levites (one of the tribes of Israel) could be priests. They would take people’s sacrifices to the Temple to make the people right with God. Now, Peter says that all believers in Christ are priests. We bring non-believers into the presence of God through evangelism, making them right with Him. Thus the “spiritual sacrifices” refer to evangelism (cf. 2:9-10).

(2:6) “For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’”

(2:6) Why does Peter add “on him” to Isaiah 28:16?

(2) How do we become a part of Christian community?

(2:7) Did Peter properly cite Psalm 118:22 (c.f. Mt. 21:42)?

(2:7) “This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone.’” The “cornerstone” was a massive stone ancient builders used as a measuring line for the rest of the structure. In referring to approaching an old temple, Norman Hillyer writes, “There was still lying there a stone, hewn on three sides, measuring 69 feet x 12 feet x 83 feet.”[21]

(2:8) “And, ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

(2:8) Does this passage teach that some people are “appointed” to hell?

(2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

(2:9) Is our mission “singing and praise” or “evangelism?”

(2:9) Are Christians “chosen” for heaven?

(3) What is our mission as a Christian community?

Peter alludes to several passages here (Ex. 19:6; Isa. 43:20-21; Hos. 2:25).

(2:10) “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Peter cites Hosea 1:10 and 2:23 to show how God would rescue his people. In the context of Hosea 1-2, God explains how the northern kingdom (Israel) has already been invaded and judged. Then he explains how the southern kingdom will likewise be judged. Yet in these two passages, God tells the people that he will never abandon them. Even though they were being judged, he will return to them. Carson and Beale write, “In other words, a superficial reading of Hos. 2:23 may lead one to think that the oracle is promising that Gentiles, who surely merit the label ‘Not my people,’ are now in mercy being received by God as his people. But in fact, the context shows that the people designated ‘Not my people’ are Israelites who have broken the covenant so badly that God declares them no longer his—and then he goes ahead and shows mercy to them anyway.”[22]

Discussion questions

Based on verse 5: Why does Peter compare the Christian community to a temple? In what ways is the Church like the Temple in the Old Testament? Possible answers below:

  • The best stone in a Temple is the cornerstone. Jesus is the best of the living stones and structures the rest of us in line with him.
  • Each rock is heavy and valuable.
  • A temple is different than a pile of rocks. If a stone is missing from a pile of stones, no one misses it. If a stone is missing from the middle of a temple, the entire edifice will crumble! Likewise, in Christian community, we need each other to show up and use our gifts (Heb. 10:25).
  • Each stone is uniquely hewn and placed with distinction (1 Cor. 12:18).
  • Each stone holds up other stones (i.e. each has a role).
  • A temple needs an Architect. God is the Great Architect that places us together in Christian community (1 Cor. 12:18).

Based on verse 9: What might happen if our church turned inward and lost its zeal for reaching lost people for Christ?

George Barna wrote, “There has been ‘no growth’ in the proportion of the adult population that can be classified as [Bible-believing] Christian. The proportion of… Christians has remained constant at 32%.”[23] Why do you think Christianity is growing in other parts of the world, but has screeched to a halt in the United States? How might our topic tonight play a role in assessing this pressing issue?

Based on verse 7: People are still stumbled by the Cross of Christ today. How would you react to these statements from critics and skeptics of the Christian faith who reject the importance of the Cross of Christ?

John Shelby Spong (retired Episcopal bishop): “Seldom did Christians pause to recognize the ogre into which they had turned God. A human father who would nail his son to a cross for any purpose would be arrested for child abuse. Yet that continued to be said of God as if it made God more holy and more worthy of worship.”[24]

Julie M. Hopkins: “It is morally abhorrent to claim that God the Father demanded the self-sacrifice of his only Son to balance the scales of justice… A god who punished through pain, despair and violent death is not a god of love, but a sadist and despot.”[25]

Christopher Hitchens: “I am told of a human sacrifice that took place two thousand years ago, without my wishing it and in circumstances so ghastly that, had I been present and in possession of any influence, I would have been duty-bound to try and stop it. In consequence of this murder, my own manifold sins are forgiven me, and I may hope to enjoy everlasting life.”[26]

(1 Pet. 2:11-25) Following Christ in a hostile world

As Peter wrote this letter, one-third of the population were slaves. Emperor Nero—a homicidal maniac—sat on the throne in Rome, crucifying Christians and lighting them on fire to illuminate his garden parties. At one point, Nero even castrated a young boy named Sporus, and then married him publicly! By contrast, Christianity was a small, burgeoning movement surrounded by other dominant religions and worldviews that were hostile to it. It’s into this setting that Peter writes his letter on how to navigate such a fallen world.

(2:11) “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” Why does Peter refer to Christians as aliens and strangers? We are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20); we have transferred from this world (1 Jn. 5:19) into God’s kingdom (Col. 1:13). Since we have this new identity, we aren’t going to fit in with the world—just as Christ didn’t fit in (Jn. 15:18).

Our first lesson of living in a fallen world doesn’t begin outside in the world, but inside in our heart. Before we’re ready to do battle for Christ in the public arena, we need to decide if we’re willing to genuinely and authentically desire to live for Christ in our own hearts. Do I believe that the key to my happiness is to live selfishly, or to give my life away to others?

(2:12) “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” In the early church, Christians were persecuted and slandered for a number of reasons (see our earlier article “Persecution of Christianity”).

The best weapon against slander is a lifestyle of love and good deeds. It’s hard to continue slandering people when we see that they are good and loving people. The Roman Emperor Julian (AD 332-363) wrote,

Atheism [i.e. Christian faith] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well, while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.[27]

The result of these good deeds is that people will “glorify God in the day of visitation.” It must have an evangelistic effect on the culture.

(2:13-14) “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

(2:13-14) Are we supposed to submit to evil governments? (see Romans 13:1-7)?

Notice that we are supposed to submit “for the Lord’s sake.” It isn’t that tyranny is right or just, but submission is the best strategy to advance the cause of Christ—not drawing attention to ourselves.

(2:15) “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” It would’ve been easy for the surrounding culture to believe that Christians were insurgents or radicals. Yet when they showed their love for the world, it had a silencing effect on their slander.

(2:16) “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” We are truly free, being strangers of this world (cf. 2:12). Yet we shouldn’t exploit our identity. We live in the world, but not of the world.

(2:17) “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” In the first-century, the king was worshipped by the people. Yet Peter simply states that we should honor the king like we would anyone else. The term “Honor” (timaō) means “the recognition of the value of each man in his place as the creature of God.”[28] It is used elsewhere of parents (Mt. 15:4; Eph. 6:2), false worship (Mt. 15:8), estimating a price (Mt. 27:9), accepting apostolic authority (Acts 28:10), and honoring faithful widows (1 Tim. 5:3). We should reserve “love” for God’s people and “fear” for the King—our Heavenly Father (cf. Mt. 10:28).

 (2:18-20) “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

(2:18-20) Does the Bible support slavery?

It’s easy to be patient when we suffer for our own sin, but not when it’s due to the sin of others. This is true patience!

(2:21) “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” Christ is the ultimate example of suffering under the regime of an unjust religious and political system. Jesus didn’t cry, “It’s not fair!” as the nails were being driven into his hands. Instead, he yelled, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).

(2:22-25) “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” Peter cites Isaiah 53:9 to support the point that Jesus was the ultimate innocent sufferer. Really, this entire section is drawing from the description of Jesus in Isaiah’s Servant Songs.

Discussion questions

Based on verse 12: What are some healthy ways we can respond to slander when we encounter it? (Possible answers)

  • Expect it (2 Tim. 3:12; Rom. 3:8)
  • Do your fair share of communicating (Prov. 26:4-5; 1 Cor. 4:13)
  • Don’t dwell on it (Phil. 4:12)
  • Be proactive with good deeds
  • Don’t be intimidated, but argue your case (1 Pet. 3:14-15)

How might God use persecution to further spread the gospel?

(Based on verses 18-20) What is the difference between voluntarily suffering and being a passive doormat that people walk all over? Is Peter prescribing weaknesses here?

(1 Pet. 3:1-7) Living in a fallen marriage

(3:1) Was Peter a sexist pig?

(3:1-2) “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” This is the only passage in the NT about silent evangelism (“…won without a word by the behavior…”). Here the wives of non-Christian husbands can win their husbands over to Christ through their lifestyle.

(3:3-4) “Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses. 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

(1 Pet. 3:3) Does this mean that women should not wear makeup and jewelry?

(3:5) “For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”

(3:6) “Just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” It isn’t simply doing what is right externally, but also, not being conquered by fear internally.

(3:6) When did Sarah obey Abraham in the OT?

(3:7) “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Husbands should be kind and love “in the same way” as wives. While they have other roles, the servant leadership and love should be present.

(3:7) Does Peter think that women are inferior to men?

This is an intimidating passage for husbands. We can’t move along doing ministry, while treating our wives (and kids?) like trash. In other passages, elders are not fit to lead the church, if they do not lead their households well (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Discussion questions

What are some ways we might prepare for marriage before entering into it? (Remember, it’s less about finding the right person, and more about becoming the right one)

(1 Pet. 3:9-22) Responding to intimidation

(3:8-9) “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” These two verses stand in contrast to each other. The first is the thesis, and the second is the antithesis. Do these qualities in verse 8 describe you, or do the qualities in verse 9 describe you?

“Blessing” (eulogeo) means “to speak well of.” Thus prayer might be in view (Acts 7:60; 1 Cor. 4:12).

Why should we bless instead of curse others? Peter appeals to our identity in Christ (“you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing”).

(3:10-12) “For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. 11 He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’” Why does Peter cite Psalm 34:12-16? In the context of the psalm, David experiences a sense of relief and euphoria for escaping death in the court of Abimelech (when David pretended to be insane). David credited God with this rescue. Peter must see a similarity between our rescue from hell, and David’s rescue from death. David learned that God saved him to bring a blessing to others. The same is true for the follower of Jesus. Our desire to bless is based on the indicative that we are already blessed. Carson and Beale write, “Just as God delivered David from the dangers implicit in his sojourn among the Philistines, so also God will deliver Peter’s Christian readers from their sojourn among their pagan communities.”[29]

(3:13) “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?” Is this statement true? Can’t people harm walking Christians? Peter is a realist. In the next verse, he shows that the righteous do suffer.

(3:14-16) “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” There are many reasons for the use of apologetics. In this context, Peter sees the use of apologetics for responding to bullies. While we should never attack or curse others, we should argue and reason with them, provided we are being respectful and gentle.

Regarding fear and intimidation, John Stott writes, “Fear is like fungus: it grows most rapidly in the dark. It is essential, therefore, to bring our fears out into the light and look at them, especially in the light of the victory and supremacy of Jesus Christ. For he who died and rose has also been exalted to his Father’s right hand, and everything has been put ‘under his feet.’ So where are the things of which we were previously afraid? They are under the feet of the triumphant Christ. It is when we see them there that their power to terrify us is broken.”[30]

(3:17) “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” If God “wills” for us to suffer, then we should be willing to stand for Christ and suffer if need be.

(3:18-20) “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”

(3:18-20) Where did Jesus go during the three days in the grave?

(3:21) “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

(3:21) Can baptism save us?

(3:22) “[Jesus] is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”

(1 Pet. 4:1-19) Suffering

(4:1) Can Christians gain sinless perfection?

(4:1) “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” The word “arm” (hoplisasthe) is a military word used for preparing for battle. Josephus uses it to refer to David getting ready to fight Goliath (Antiquities, 6:187). When you’re getting ready to go to war the next morning, you’re making up your mind in advance that you’re ready to fight—not retreat. For the Christian, we also decide in advance by counting the cost to serve and suffer for Christ.

(4:2) “So as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” It might seem odd that Peter places this verse here (i.e. choosing for selfish lusts), but this is usually the quickest “escape plan” for the Christian during suffering. When they are in the midst of suffering, it feels easy to choose for pleasure-seeking. We’re not going to self-medicate or dull our senses. We’re going to willingly choose to step into battle.

(4:3) “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” Peter argues that they have already gotten their fill of life apart from God. They’ve had enough of that, and know where it leads: despair, depression, broken relationships, etc.

(4:4) “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you.” This is a great passage for those who have left the party scene. When you meet Christ, your friends might call you names, tease you, and generally scoff at your way of life. Sometimes this social pressure can feel pretty intense. Yet most of this comes from the stark change in your life and their “surprise” at how much you’ve changed. It creates tension in relationships when they see that you are no longer conforming. This tension can lead to anger, but it can also lead to curiosity, leading people to faith in Jesus.

(4:5) “But they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Instead of focusing on the judging words of our non-Christian friends, we should focus on the ultimate Judge.

(4:6) “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”

(4:6) Do the unsaved dead get a second chance to hear the gospel?

(4:7) “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” In what way does the end of history give us “sound judgment” and make us “sober”? In the Christian worldview, we realize that time is short, and Jesus could return at any moment. Because Jesus could return imminently, we need to live for Christ immediately.

(4:7) Did Peter think Jesus would return soon?

(4:8) “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” This returns to the comment of “fervently love one another from the heart” from 1:22. Here he connects fervent love with covering a multitude of sins.

When we’re engaged in selfless love, we don’t focus on other people’s sin? For one, our focus is not on our own hurt feelings, but on giving out love to others. Moreover, when we love others, this starts to build affection. It’s hard to be in prayer and thoughtful love for others, and also be embittered and hyper-sensitive at the same time!

Does love atone for sin? Surely not. Blum writes, “This quotation from Proverbs 10:12 does not mean that our love covers or atones for our sins. In the proverb the meaning is that love does not ‘stir up’ sins or broadcast them. So the major idea is that love suffers in silence and bears all things (1 Cor 13:5–7). Christians forgive faults in others because they know the forgiving grace of God in their own lives.”[31]

As the world system becomes more selfish, followers of Jesus need to become more loving. This loving center of gravity attracts people. This requires enough time-investment to “fervently love one another” and “cover a multitude of sins.”

(4:9) “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

“Hospitality” (philoxenos) is the love of strangers.

“Complaint” (gongysmou) refers to an “utterance made in a low tone of voice… behind-the-scenes talk” (BDAG).

Some people show hospitality, but complain about it. They invite you over to their house, but complain about dirty dishes, stains on the rug, and trash left over. If you’re going to show hospitality, then do it out of love for others—not based on duty or obligation!

(4:10) “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” We shouldn’t get a fat-head from our spiritual gift(s). For one, this is a gift from God. Secondly, we are just supposed to be good “stewards” of the gift. We will eventually stand before God, and explain how we used this gift for his kingdom.

(4:11) “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” It’s possible that Peter is referring to speaking the words of the Bible to each other. But surely we need to share more than purely Scripture when teaching, counseling, or building others up. He is implying that God will give us words to share in building others up. We often say that “God was speaking through me.” Do we mean it? This passage states very clearly that the Holy Spirit will take over and speak through us when we are engaged in serving others (cf. 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Cor. 5:20).

When we choose to live a life of sacrificial love, we often wonder who will love us. Here we find the answers: God! God himself promises to supply the power as we step out in faith.

(4:12) “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” The Greek term for “fiery ordeal” (pyrōsis) is where we get our modern terms “pyro” or “pyrotechnics.” This could be literal fire (e.g. Nero’s great fire of AD 64). If Peter was indeed writing from Rome (1 Pet. 5:13), then he would know all about the persecution from Emperor Nero. However, if this letter was written before AD 64, then Peter could be using the term “fiery ordeal” to metaphorically refer to slander and malice.

(4:13) “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” It’s not that God has abandoned us to suffer, but we are actually sharing in his suffering.

(4:14) “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” What does it mean to be “blessed” (makarios)? This is the word used by Jesus throughout the Beatitudes. We are “blessed” for washing feet or serving others (Jn. 13:17; cf. Acts 20:35). It can also be rendered “fortunate” (Acts 26:2) or even “happy” (Rom. 14:22; 1 Cor. 7:40).

(4:15) “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” Some people complain about suffering that was actually self-inflicted (e.g. getting fired for being lazy, poor spending habits, etc.). One guy we lived with was fired multiple times for not showing up to work. Then, he said that God was putting him through testing with suffering. We couldn’t disagree more! God wasn’t testing him; rather, he was testing God!

“Troublesome meddler” (allotriepiskopos) means “one who meddles in things that do not concern the person, a busybody” (BDAG). It’s interesting that Peter adds this in a list of sins that include murder and stealing! Often, Christians face suffering from non-Christians because of their self-righteous attitudes or gossip. This suffering is not righteous, but actually incredibly self-righteous!

(4:16) “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” How do we “glorify God” during suffering. Watchman Nee gives his typical insights to this subject. He writes,

God does not exempt His children from trial or chastisement; indeed, trial and chastisement are necessary to secure their growth to maturity. But what we wish to call attention to here is an aspect of suffering frequently referred to in the Word of God which is the deliberate choice of those of His children whose consuming desire is to be of service to Him. It is not something imposed upon them to which they reluctantly submit, but something they willingly choose. But if you have not cultivated this disposition you will give way to fear in the face of difficulty; and if you harbor fear you will fall an easy prey to the enemy. He will put upon you the very thing you fear, and you will be vulnerable to his assaults because your mind is not safeguarded by the determination to suffer. The question is not one of the amount of suffering we may be called upon to meet, but of our attitude toward the suffering we meet. Alas! the rank and file of Christians, and many Christian workers too, seem to go on splendidly as long as circumstances are propitious, but the moment any affliction befalls them they come to a halt. The trouble is, they are not inwardly prepared to suffer. If it is a settled matter that we have willingly accepted the way of suffering for the sake of our Lord, then trial never takes us unaware. There are some Christians who endure suffering, but they have no conception of the preciousness of the suffering that is their lot. They go through it without any sense of gratitude to the Lord and only hope for the day when they will be delivered out of it… Do not take for granted when you are bearing affliction that you are suffering for the Lord’s sake. The question is not: How much suffering have you been through? But, To what extent have you rejoiced in the suffering?[32]

(4:17) “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

(4:17) Will Christians be judged?

(4:18) “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?”

(4:19) “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” What does it look like to entrust your soul to a faithful Creator during times of suffering? Complaining? Bitterness? Quitting? Self-medicating? Not at all. We entrust ourselves in times of prayer, gratitude, and continuing to put one foot in front of the other in serving Christ and others.

Discussion questions

Based on verse 7: Why does Peter connect the return of Christ with such practical aspects of the Christian life? What’s the connection between the return of Christ and being sober in spirit?

Has anyone had experience in rejoicing during suffering? What was it like?

(1 Pet. 5:1-7) Leadership

(5:1) “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.” The term “elders” (presbyterous) is relative. These leaders were only a couple of years older probably. But we don’t pick elders based on their age (1 Tim. 4:12), but on their spiritual maturity.

Peter didn’t view himself as above the other apostles. He called himself a fellow elder,” not “the Elder.”

He also claimed to be an eye-witness of Christ (“witness of the sufferings of Christ”).

(5:2) “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.” The pronoun “you” is plural—not singular (“y’all” 0r “you guys”). This speaks of plurality in leadership (cf. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). Leaders can go wrong so easily that we need each other for mutual accountability and sharpening of our views (Prov. 27:17).

Jesus gave the commission to shepherd the flock to Peter just after Jesus found Peter betraying him (Jn. 21:15ff). Our adequacy to lead doesn’t come from us. Peter saw this in Christ’s metaphor to “tend his lambs,” and it must have stuck with him.

“Oversight” (episcopeo) comes from the roots epi (“over”) and scopos (“to see”).

Who is “not under compulsion”? Are the elders not under compulsion to lead, or do they not lead people under compulsion? Both are true. However, we understand this to refer to the elders not being forced to lead “under compulsion.” They should view leadership as a privilege—not an obligation.

“According to the will of God” shows us that we lead by appealing to God’s word—not our own novel opinions. It could also be by God’s power, or even to the fact that God has placed us in leadership. It isn’t an accident that you’re a leader. If you’re complaining, it’s really complaining against God’s will.

“Sordid gain” literally means “shameful” gain, which would refer to money, power, or getting an inflated ego from doing Christian work.

(5:3) “Nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” True Christian leadership doesn’t force others to follow Christ. While elders do have active leadership, we often lead the best when we proved ourselves as good “examples to the flock.” When people can witness true spirituality in a leader, it often has a ripple effect, rubbing off on those around them (1 Tim. 4:11-16; Heb. 13:7).

(5:4) “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” As Christian leaders, we do not get the glory now, but we will later. Those who hog the glory for themselves have “their reward in full,” as Jesus taught (Mt. 6:2, 5, 16). By contrast, true Christian leaders will receive an “unfading crown of glory,” being directly rewarded by God.

(5:5) “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Spiritual authority is taught in Scripture. We don’t submit to leaders (in spiritual areas) because they are better than us. We do it out of humility to God’s direction for the church. Of course, we aren’t supposed to submit in any area—only spiritual areas. It’s hard to see where Peter is quoting from exactly (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6), but many passages teach on the subject of pride and humility:

(Prov. 11:2) When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

(Prov. 13:10) Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

(Prov. 16:5) The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

(Prov. 16:18) Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

(Prov. 16:19) Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.

(Prov. 21:4) Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!

(5:6) “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” God will ultimately exalt us at the return of Christ.

(5:7) “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Leading for God has its anxieties (cf. 2 Cor. 11:28). It’s no wonder, then, that Peter has instructions on how to handle anxiety in this section. Peter counsels, “Cast all your anxiety (merimnaō) on God because he cares (melei) for you.” Did you notice the play on words in the Greek? The same word used our “anxiety” is also used for God’s loving “care” for the anxious. Literally, this passage reads: “Give your anxiety to God, because he is anxious for you.” It’s God’s job to worry about our needs and problems—not ours. Our job is to trust that he is worrying about us. In fact, it is actually an act of pride (v.5) to worry about our circumstances and try to control them.

(1 Pet. 5:8-14) Satan

For more on this subject, see “Satanology.”

(5:8) “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert…” This is the same exhortation that Peter used earlier: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).

Biographically, Peter had failed to “be alert” of Satan’s schemes. On the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Lk. 22:31-32). Jesus had told Peter to “remain here and keep watch with Me” (Mt. 26:38; cf. Mk. 14:34). But Peter had fallen asleep instead (v.40). Peter uses the word “alert” (grēgoreō) that Jesus used (“keep watch”). The term means “to stay awake, be watchful… to be in constant readiness, be on the alert” (BDAG). Paul uses this same term for being “alert” in prayer (Col. 4:2). Peter learned from his failure, and likewise encouraged believers to stay “alert.”

“…Your adversary…” The term “adversary” (antidikos) refers to “one who brings a charge in a lawsuit, accuser, plaintiff” (BDAG; cf. Mt. 5:25; Lk. 12:58; 18:3). Elsewhere, John refers to Satan as the “accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10). Satan is the attorney from hell!

“…the devil…” The term “devil” is the translation of the Hebrew “Satan” (śāṭān), which means “slanderer.” So, this prosecuting attorney will not fight fair.

“…prowls around…” This implies that Satan works in covert ways. In Job, God asks Satan where he has been, and Satan replies, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1:7). This is why Peter tells us to “be on the alert.”

“…like a roaring lion…” This implies that Satan works in overt ways (“roaring”). This could refer to intimidation. Amos writes, “The lion has roared—so who isn’t frightened?” (Amos 3:8 NLT). This could look backward to the tendency of “sheep” to scatter in panic when a lion roars (1 Pet. 5:1-5).

What chances do humans have in fighting a lion?[33] Zero! Similarly, Christians cannot stand up to Satan on their own power, but only through the power and authority of Jesus (“resist him, firm in your faith”). Regarding the Suffering Servant, Isaiah writes, “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame” (Isa. 50:7 NLT).

“…seeking someone to devour.” Satan wants to “ensnare” Christians (1 Tim. 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:26). If a real metaphysical being like Satan exists, we should surely be “sober” and “alert” to how he might be operating in our lives and ministries!

Why does he use the lion imagery? It seems that lions stalk their prey from afar, but then they strike without mercy. Could the same be true of Satan?

(5:9) “But resist him…” The term “resist” (antistēte) is the same term used by Paul (Eph. 6:11-13) and James (Jas. 4:7). James adds the promise, “And [Satan] will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7; cf. Mt. 4:11). Satan will “flee” from us in the same way that we “flee” from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18).

How do we resist Satan? Later Peter writes, “This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” (v.12). Paul elaborates even further in Ephesians 6:10-18. This would include verbal rebuke (Lk. 10:17; Acts 16:18).

“…firm in your faith…” This refers to the faith of the believer—not the objective faith of all believers.[34] Though, Howard Marshall writes, “What Peter is talking about is not putting strength into believing but drawing strength from what we believe.”[35] Our response to Satan is not fear—but faith.

“…knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren…” This is encouraging to read, because it shows that “their circumstances are not unusual but in fact to be expected by Christians everywhere.”[36] Elsewhere, Peter tells his readers to not “be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you” (1 Pet. 4:12). Part of Satan’s tactic is to make us feel like we are unique and lonely in our efforts to serve Christ.

When we endure spiritual attack, we often feel isolated and lonely, like no one can understand how we’re feeling. As we open up to other believers, it’s refreshing to simply hear others share similar struggles and the pain that comes from spiritual warfare. It’s also encouraging to know that believers are suffering all over the world—not just us (1 Cor. 12:26; Jn. 15:18-20; 16:33).

“…who are in the world.” The “world” (kosmos) is currently owned and operated by the Evil One (1 Jn. 5:19; Jn. 14:30; Eph. 2:2)

(5:10) “After you have suffered for a little while…” This harkens back to the beginning of the letter: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials” (1 Pet. 1:6). This is because “the end of all things is near” (1 Pet. 4:7).

“…the God of all grace…” We might fail, but we can count on God being gracious toward our failings.

“…who called you to His eternal glory in Christ…” Suffering for a “little while” is contrasted with “His eternal glory in Christ.” (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17)

“[God]… will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” The only condition here is that we “resist” and “stand firm” in our faith.

“Perfect” (katartisei) means “to cause to be in a condition to function well, put in order, restore” (BDAG). This term usually relates to character growth. Davids writes, “The focus is on their character. Through their suffering God will produce a fully restored or confirmed character in them.”[37] Marshall writes, “God will restore or repair whatever is damaged, so that the believer will be fully complete to face up to whatever lies ahead.”[38]

“Confirm” (stērixei) means “to fix firmly in a place, set up, establish, support… to cause to be inwardly firm or committed, confirm, establish, strengthen” (BDAG). Davids writes, “The idea is that God will make them firm in their faith.”[39] God will impart “courage and strength to weak believers.”[40]

“Strengthen” (sthenōsei) means “to strengthen or make strong” (BDAG).

“Establish” (themeliōsei) means “to provide a base for some material object or structure, lay a foundation, found… to provide a secure basis for the inner life and its resources, establish, strengthen” (BDAG). Davids writes, “This is an image of security, of people who cannot be moved no matter what comes against them.”[41]

Davids argues that we should splice apart these terms. Peter is basically piling up a number of results of their restoration by God.[42] Likewise, Marshall argues, “It may be hairsplitting to differentiate the senses of the various verbs used in this way. They are piled up rhetorically to emphasize that God will strengthen us in every way to face up to persecution.”[43]

God will restore us and strengthen us after we encounter suffering—not before. If we opt out of suffering before God does his intended work, we are effectively pulling the plug on the Holy Spirit’s ability to transform us.

This restoration could refer to our earthly life or to our eternal life. Jobes takes a middle view that is refers to both: “God’s Spirit indeed strengthens, empowers, and secures Christians, imparting the courage and confidence to live well through this ‘little while’ of suffering. Because what we believe about our future shapes how we live today, Peter concludes the body of his letter with an eschatological statement that puts all of today’s realities into the perspective of eternity.”[44]

Discussion questions

How have you seen the servant leadership of others impact you and your growth with God? (It’s probably better NOT to share names of leaders, but rather, focus on their acts of love, counsel, or leadership)

(5:11-14) “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love.”

(5:13) Was Peter really in Babylon?

(5:14) Should we greet each other with a holy kiss?

Commentary on 2 Peter

(2 Pet. 1:1-9) God changes lives

In this first chapter, Peter opens with the fact that God wants to transform us. People often get worried about this, wondering what God will do in our lives. In what way will God change my life? Angela from The Office? Flanders from The Simpsons?

Not at all. Instead, God will transform us into a more loving, Christ-like person. The picture Peter paints for spiritual growth is a beautiful vision for each and every one of us.

(1:1) “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…” God transformed Peter from being an arrogant, self-absorbed, coward into a stable and strong leader. As Peter discusses the subject, he stands as a trophy of God’s grace, and writes with real authority.

“…to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…” We all have the same faith as believers. The object of our faith is Christ’s work.

“…by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

(1:1) Does this passage support the deity of Christ?

(1:2-3) “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” When it comes to doing God’s will, he offers all of the power that we need. He does this according to the “true knowledge” (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). While God’s word doesn’t answer every problem that we have (e.g. filling a tooth, unclogging a toilet, etc.), it gives us everything that we need to live a godly life.

Notice that this power and identity is a past tense event (“[God] has granted to us everything”). This means that we need to cash in on the power and identity that has already been given to us.

(1:4) “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” What does it mean to be a partaker of the divine nature? The term for “partaker” (koinonia) means “to share.” The term “nature” (physeos) means “condition or circumstance as determined by birth, natural endowment/condition, nature” or “the natural character of an entity, natural characteristic/disposition” (BDAG). This would mean that we share in God’s character—not his divinity—as the further context makes clear. This is in contrast to the world-system (kosmos).

(1:5-7) “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” Peter lists many different character qualities. If we’re missing one of them, it compromises the entire picture.

None of these character qualities are new to us (hopefully!). Yet these slowly slip away from our minds and hearts. We need to be “stirred up by way of reminder” (1:13).

“Diligence” (spoudē) normally translated as “haste, hurry, or earnestness.” This is the opposite of apathy and indifference. Read Spurgeon’s chapter on “Earnestness” from Encounter with Spurgeon for good reading on this quality.

“Moral excellence” (aretē) is usually given in the context of God’s own character. Moral goodness matters to God and to spiritual growth.

“Knowledge” is integral to the Christian life. Some Christians are suspicious of knowledge. They might say, “I don’t want to get into a real heavy knowledge trip…” But what is the alternative? An ignorance-trip? A stupidity-trip? Knowledge in itself doesn’t change us, but knowledge is necessary for change.

God works through the transformation of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). Our knowledge is what battles the false beliefs that fuel our sin nature. This could be why it precedes “self-control.” We need truth to battle the mental distortions that lead to giving in to our impulses and desires.

“Self-control” (egkrateia) stops us from going to excess in moral or even non-moral areas: addictions, over-eating, etc. Wouldn’t it be great to have control of your desires, rather than having our desires controlling us? (cf. Gal. 5:23) When we lack self-control, it weighs us down. This could stop us from being able to “persevere.”

This might precede “perseverance” because we will hit “speed bumps” in our walk with Christ, we need to be patient and keep moving forward without choosing for sin. Also, part of having “self-control” is being willing to wait on God’s provision in temptation.

“Perseverance” refers to being steadfast and stable. Some believers have spurts of spiritual growth, but then they have equal times of crushing discouragement. God wants to form us into a consistent, dependable person. Peter himself was a vacillator, but God turned him into a “rock.”

“Godliness” refers to reverence and a consciousness of God. After all, what is the point of being so preserving and self-controlled if it isn’t leading to becoming more like God? After persevering over time, we get a track record of how God has come through in the past. This grows our reverence and love for God even more.

Up until this point, these qualities could be just for us. Spiritual growth would just be a self-improvement project. But the Christian view isn’t merely about transforming myself, but also directed outward, transforming the lives of others. This is why this section ends with “brotherly kindness” and “love.” The goal of spiritual growth is learning how to give out in love relationships.

“Brotherly kindness” (philadelphia) literally means “love” (phileo) for the “brothers” (adelphe). This is the opposite of coldness, and it implies learning to feel for others.

“Love” (agape) is a form of love that is “next level love.” It’s higher and deeper than love for our brothers; it includes love for even our enemies. Paul puts love at the top of his list as well (Gal. 5:22; 1 Cor. 13; 1 Tim. 1:5).

Having our character change is a gradual process—not typically transformed overnight. If God sovereignly chooses to change a certain area of our lives, this is his prerogative. Yet he doesn’t promise this.

(1:8) “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Knowledge and spiritual growth are closely tied together. Usually, we think of knowledge coming first, but in this case, the qualities come first. It must be that when we have the right attitude toward God that we gain in our knowledge of Christ.

(1:9) “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” Our transformation is tied to remembering and trusting in our identity in Christ. It’s only as we remember our identity that transformation occurs (Jas. 1:22-25).

(1:10) “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” We need to be grounded in our calling and choosing, which is a part of our identity. It seems that we grow in this by acting on the truth (practice these things”).

(1:11) “For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” We will be richly rewarded for our faithfulness in spiritual growth and our love for others.

(1:12-13) “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder.” We usually don’t need novel insights into spiritual growth. We need to hear the same bread and butter of God’s timeless truth. As leaders and influencers of others, it shouldn’t both us to be “glorified reminders” of one another.

Discussion questions

What do you think is our role in spiritual growth versus God’s role? When can we tell if we’re taking on too much in our role? When can we tell if we’re not playing our role well enough?

What might happen if we took one of the qualities of spiritual growth out of the equation? How would the picture of spiritual growth differ?

(2 Pet. 1:14-21) The stability of the word

(1:14) “Knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” Peter realizes that he will die soon. Most commentators relate this insight to John 21:18-19, where Jesus predicted Peter’s death. However, this doesn’t fit. There, Jesus predicted how Peter would die, but here, Peter writes that he knows when he will die (“imminent”). How did Peter get insight into this? How did Jesus “make this clear” to Peter? A vision? An intuition of his circumstances?

(1:15) “And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” It’s interesting what people tell us from their deathbed. They are often in their most honest moments, and they want to pass on what they’ve learned in their lives. What is Peter thinking about in his final moments on Earth?

(1:16-18) “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” Peter starts thinking back to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17; Mk. 9; Lk. 9). He emphasizes the truth of Christ (“we did not follow cleverly devised tales). The term “tales” (muthos) is where we get our modern word “myth.” Are we supposed to ground our faith in experiences like this?

(1:19) “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” The NASB footnote states: “We have the even more sure prophetic word.” This means that the Word of God is more sure than even these incredible “mountaintop experiences.”

The “morning star” (phōsphoros) appears only here in the NT, but the use of “star” for the Messiah occurs in Numbers 24:17 (“a star … out of Jacob”). Related expressions, such as “the rising sun” (Lk. 1:78) and “the bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16) imply that Peter is referring to Christ.

(1:20-21) “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Some authoritarian churches use this as a proof text for how individual Christians cannot interpret the Bible on their own (“…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…”). Therefore, they need someone (e.g. a spiritual leader/clergy/other sacred writing/authoritative translation) to teach them.

We disagree with this erroneous (and dangerous!) view for a number of reasons. For one, the context refers to the prophets writing Scripture—not believers reading Scripture. The connecting word “for…” makes this connection. Moreover, the term “interpretation” can also be rendered “imagination” (NET) or “understanding” (NLT). Peter is claiming that prophets were moved along by God’s inspiration to write exactly what he wanted.

The term “moved” (pherō) is sometimes used of animals being moved by their masters (Lk. 15:23; Acts 14:13). It can mean “to cause to follow a certain course in direction or conduct, move out of position, drive… literally by wind or weather” (BDAG). For more on this important passage, see “Verbal Plenary Inspiration” and “Inerrancy.”

Discussion questions

Based on verse 19: In what way is the Bible more certain than subjective spiritual experiences? Why would Peter place the Bible over his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration?

Compare and contrast the valid use of experiences and the invalid use of them:

The Role of Experience

Valid

Invalid

Gives motivation and clarity during drought

Gives me the basis for why I follow Christ
Appreciation

Expectation

Experience is natural in any relationship (marriage)

Experience dictates whether I’ll stay in the relationship
Valuable for a long time afterward

Invaluable after the fact

Given in addition to the evidence or truth

Given in the absence of the evidence or truth
Humbling: often given in preparation to serious suffering (Acts 18; 2 Cor. 12:7). If you’re going to get the trip to the third heaven, your ticket is the thorn in the flesh!

Boasting: often people make this the center of their spiritual lives, and brag about their experiences.

(2 Pet. 2:1-22) Counterfeit Christianity

False teaching is an oft-repeated theme of the NT, mentioned in 17 of the 22 NT letters if we include the seven letters of Revelation 2-3 (e.g. Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Cor. 2:17; 11:13-15; Gal. 1:6-9; 5:10-12; Phil. 3:2; Col. 2:16-23; 2 Thess. 2:1-2; 1 Tim. 1:3ff.; 4:1-5; 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-8; Titus 1:10-16; 3:9-11; Heb. 13:9; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; 1 Jn. 2:18-26; 4:1-6; 2 Jn. 1:7-9; 3 Jn. 1:9-10; Jude 1:4ff.; Rev. 2:2, 15, 20).

Jesus reserved his harshest words for false teachers, unleashing a verbal flamethrower on the Pharisees in Matthew 23. What will Peter have to say about false teachers?

(2:1) “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” False teachers do not appear through a portal from another dimension. They come from “among the people” and “among you.” They arise from inside the Body of Christ (c.f. Acts 20:29-30; Gal. 2:4).

They are highly covert—not overt. No false teacher ever introduces himself by telling you that they are going to ruin your spiritual life! Instead, they secretly introduce destructive heresies” (c.f. 2 Cor. 11:14; Gal. 2:4).

They deny the person of Christ (“denying the Master who bought them,” c.f. 1 Cor. 15:3ff; Gal. 1:6-9).

“Bringing swift destruction upon themselves…” What is the “destruction” (apōleia) mentioned here? The term “is not a simple extinction of existence… but an everlasting state of torment and death.”[45] Blum adds, “It will be ‘swift’ because it will descend on them suddenly either at their death or at the return of the Lord.”[46]

They also deny the work of Christ. At the end of the book, Peter writes, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:17-18).

(2:1) Do false teachers lose their salvation?

(2:2) “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” Denying the truth leads to sexual immorality (c.f. Rom. 1:21-32). This term (aselgeia) refers to those who are given over to blatant sexual immorality and other corrupt behavior.

Satan floods the market with phonies so that “the way of the truth will be maligned.” With so many counterfeits in the market, people become cynical of the real thing. This is similar to getting countless SPAM emails, “You’ve won one million dollars… Just fill out your information here!!” After being taken advantage of, we are hesitant to trust in even reliable offers.

(2:3) “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” We can recognize false teachers from their doctrine, but also their deeds. Peter states that in their greed they will exploit you.”

“False words” (plastos) is the root from which we get the word “plastic.” False teachers add or subtract from Scripture (c.f. Rev. 22:18-19).

(2:4) “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.” The Greek word for “hell” (tartaroō) only occurs here in the NT: “Tartarus, thought of by the Greeks as a subterranean place lower than Hades where divine punishment was meted out, and so regarded in Israelite apocalyptic as well” (BDAG). In Greek mythology, this was the place that the gods would be judged. Of course, Peter isn’t using this term to affirm Pagan mythology. Instead, he is contextually using their term to make his point. This was an appropriate word to describe a place where angels will be judged in hell.

(2:4) What is Tartarus?

(2:5-11) “And did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.”

Noah was rescued by God through the Flood during a time when everyone’s thoughts were only continually evil (Gen. 6:5).

Sodom and Gomorrah became examples for generations as to what God would do with unbridled evil.

“Righteous Lot…” This doesn’t mean that Lot was a righteous man in his actions. After all, he offered his virgin daughters to a rape mob, and he became so drunk that he had sex with them! No, Lot wasn’t a righteous man. Peter likely means that Lot was positionally righteous because of his faith. This would be similar to Paul considering Abraham and David “righteous” (Rom. 4; Gen. 15:6; Ps. 32:1-2), even though they were unrighteous at times.

Peter cites a number of examples of God’s judgment in the OT. In this way, he is showing that God’s solution for false teachers is judgment.

(2:12) “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.” If we strip the spiritual component to humans, what is left? We are just relatively advanced primates (“…like unreasoning animals…”).

(2:13) “Suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.” This refers to God’s passive wrath until the day of judgment. Solomon writes, “They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. 31 So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be satiated with their own devices” (Prov. 1:30-31).

(2:14) “Having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children.” The term “trained” is the word that usually relates to athletic training (“gymnasium”).[47] Peter is saying that these false teachers have created such serious sin habits that it’s almost as if they have been through “training” in sin!

(2:15-16) “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” Balaam was a classic “prophet for hire.” The enemies of Israel wanted Balaam to curse Israel, and they paid him to do this. Yet, Balaam never brought a curse against Israel, but a blessing instead. At the same time, Balaam was far from a good man. He took money and taught immorality (Num. 31:16). In fact, the donkey had more spiritual insight than the prophet! Christian teachers should guard themselves against greed or even accusations regarding money (2 Cor. 8:19-21).

(2:17-18) “These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error.” We expect to get water out of a spring to quench our thirst. What is the use of a spring without water? It’s a contradiction in terms and completely worthless! Peter understands the message of the false teachers to be the same way: Their teaching like taking a big gulp of salt water!

(2:19) “Promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” There is a certain irony of promising freedom when they are themselves really enslaved (cf. Jn. 8:34). We’re now free to sin, but we’re no longer free to stopping sinning. Sin leads to terrible addictions.

(2:20) “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” What makes them worse off? Is it more agonizing? Do they more of a hardened of heart? Are they more responsible? All of the above?

(2:21) “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” This implies that judgment is the key issue.

(2:22) “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.’” They had no inner heart change (Prov. 26:11). Peter compares their behavior to dogs and pigs, which were unclean in this culture.

Discussion questions

Read through 2 Peter 2: What are ways to identify false teachers from this passage?

Conclusion

We should discern false teachers through their doctrine (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9) and their deeds (Titus 1:16; 3 Jn. 1:10; 2 Cor. 11:15; Mt. 7:15-20; 11:19; 23:3; 1 Jn. 2:6; 2 Pet. 2:18-19; Jn. 10:12-13).

Don’t allow counterfeit Christians to make you cynical of the truth! Otherwise, they will have accomplished their demonic mission.

(2 Pet. 3:1-18) The end of human history

(3:1) “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.” This is why we call this letter Second Peter.

(3:2) “That you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” Peter places the words of the OT prophets on par with NT apostolic teaching. In verses 15-16, he equates Paul’s letters with Scripture. So, this might even refer to the growth and recognition of the NT canon in the first-century.

(3:3) “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” Peter predicts that people will become cynical of the Second Coming as we reach the end of history. (Sound familiar?)

(3:4) “And saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’” People will argue that everything has stayed the same over the millennia. Yet when we look at history and current trends, we see that trends are heading to a drastic conclusion (see our book, Endless Hope or Hopeless End: The Bible and the End of Human History ).

(3:5-6) “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” Peter’s point seems to be that God has brought judgment before, and he will do it again. He cites Genesis 1:6, 9.

(3:5) Did Peter believe that God created the universe from water or from nothing as Genesis teaches?

(3:7) “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” Does this mean that God will annihilate the universe and create a new one? Or simply incinerate the evil within the universe, and restore the old one?

(3:8) “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” While a lot of time has transpired, God’s timeframe is different than ours.

(3:9) “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God wants to wait for the maximum number of people to meet Christ in the premium amount of time. If Jesus returned 100 years ago, it would’ve ended war and violence, but it also would’ve meant that millions of people would missed out on eternal life.

(3:9) Does this passage invalidate limited atonement?

(3:10-11) “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” Blum writes, “The “elements” probably refers to the ‘celestial bodies’ on fire. Tēketai (‘melt’) occurs in the LXX of Isaiah 34:4.”[48]

In view of God’s judgment, how should this connect to our practical living?

(3:12) “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!”

(3:11-12) Can we speed up Christ’s coming?

(3:13-14) “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.” This could refer to our current condition when Jesus returns. We don’t want to be found screwing around when Jesus returns. Instead, Jesus repeatedly taught, “Be ready!” John writes, “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

(3:15-16) “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Even Peter had a difficult time interpreting Paul’s words! While the Bible is perspicuous (or essentially clear) in regards to its main message, it is sometimes unclear in regards to its details.

(3:17-18) “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

[1] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 441.

[2] Emphasis mine. Clowney, E. P. The message of 1 Peter: The way of the cross. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1988. 19.

[3] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, pp. 22-23). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, p. 23). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Gregg Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 44.

[6] Kruger, Michael. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Wheaton, IL. Crossway. 2012. 271.

[7] F. W. Beare, The First Epistle of Peter (Oxford: Blackwell, 1970). 29. Cited in Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Ehrman, Bart D. Forged: Writing in the Name of God: Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. New York: HarperOne, 2011. 138-139.

[9] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, pp. 26-27). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, p. 28). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[11] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 74). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.

[12] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 645.

[13] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, p. 24). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 442.

[15] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, p. 37). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[16] Jobes, K. H. (2005). 1 Peter (p. 87). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[17] Blum, E. A. (1981). 1 Peter. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 221). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[18] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, p. 69). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[19] Marshall, I. H. (1991). 1 Peter (1 Pe 1:6). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[20] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, p. 104). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[21] Hillyer, Norman “Rock Stone Imagery in 1 Peter.” Tyndale Bulletin 22 (1971) 66.

[22] Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (p. 1032). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos.

[23] Barna, George. Marketing the Church. Navpress, Colorado Springs, CO, 1990.

[24] John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile: A New Reformation of the Church’s Faith and Practice (San Francisco, CA, 1998), Chapter Six “Jesus as Rescuer.”

[25] Julie M. Hopkins, Towards a Feminist Christology: Jesus of Nazareth, European Women, and the Christological Crisis (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1995), p. 51.

[26] Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007), p.209.

[27] Cited in Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions. 2nd ed. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1986. 37-38.

[28] Blum, E. A. 1 Peter. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1981. 234.

[29] Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (1037). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos.

[30] John R. W. Stott, The Contemporary Christian (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), p. 51.

[31] Blum, E. A. (1981). 1 Peter. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (246). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[32] Nee, Watchman. The Normal Christian Life. Ft. Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1961. 90-95.

[33] Marshall, I. H. (1991). 1 Peter (1 Pe 5:8). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[34] Davids, P. H. (1990). The First Epistle of Peter (pp. 191-192). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Blum, E. A. (1981). 1 Peter. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 252). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[35] Marshall, I. H. (1991). 1 Peter (1 Pe 5:8). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[36] Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 17, p. 204). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[37] Davids, P. H. (1990). The First Epistle of Peter (p. 195). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[38] Marshall, I. H. (1991). 1 Peter (1 Pe 5:10). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[39] Davids, P. H. (1990). The First Epistle of Peter (p. 195). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[40] Marshall, I. H. (1991). 1 Peter (1 Pe 5:10). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[41] Davids, P. H. (1990). The First Epistle of Peter (p. 196). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[42] Davids, P. H. (1990). The First Epistle of Peter (p. 196). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[43] Marshall, I. H. (1991). 1 Peter (1 Pe 5:10). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[44] Jobes, K. H. (2005). 1 Peter (p. 317). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[45] Oepke, A. (1964-). G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 1, p. 397). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

[46] Blum, E. A. (1981). 2 Peter. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 277). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[47] Blum, E. A. (1981). 2 Peter. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (280-281). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[48] Blum, E. A. (1981). 2 Peter. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 287). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.