- Day 78. 1 Peter 1-3:7
- Day 79. 1 Peter 3:8-5
- Day 80. 2 Peter
- Day 81. 1 John 1-3:10
- Day 82. 1 John 3-11-5
- Day 83. 2 John; 3 John; Jude
- Day 84. Revelation 1-3
This is now our twelfth week of the Summer Reading Program and we are nearing the end of this reading plan! What a journey it has been so far, and there is still so much to mine from Scripture in these last couple of books of this series. May I encourage you all to continue persevering to the end if you are still up to date with your readings!
We will devote some time into the book of first Peter this week. The reason being is because there are several major themes that the apostle Peter explores in this first epistle that I think speaks profoundly to the society we live in that has lost both its direction and purpose.
Peter challenges our preconceptions of suffering and he encourages us to reshape the way we understand the realities of adversity in our world through the lenses of God.
i) Suffering for Christ refines your faith
Firstly, suffering has a divine purpose that is incorporated within God’s wise design. This is evident in the first few verses of the first chapter, when Peter acknowledges the difficult trials that his readers were experiencing (1 Pet. 1:6-9). He says that these challenges were God’s will for his people, so that “the proven genuineness of [their] faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1:7). When God ordains suffering to expose the sin and remove the idols in his peoples’ hearts, by his grace they fasten their grip on the one “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade… [which is] the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1:4-5). Suffering compels true believers to trust in the unchanging salvific promises of God, to which praise and glory and honour will come to both believers and Christ.
ii) Suffering for Christ drives us to trust in the Just Judge
But suffering plays another significant role in the spiritual life of a believer. Peter exhorts Christian servants to submit to their masters, even if they are mistreated unjustly for doing good in the eyes of the Lord (2:18-20). He points them to Christ, who was also reviled during his earthly ministry and suffered greatly as he bore the sins of his people (2:22-24). By his wounds, God’s people have been healed of their sinful corruption, and therefore Christ has set a wonderful example for how his people are to respond to persecution – Jesus continued “entrusting himself to [God] who judges justly.” (2:23). Even in the midst of their suffering, God’s mercy can empower his people to forgive the sins of others and entrust vengeance to him and him alone (cf. Rom. 12:19).
iii) Suffering for Christ will bring great rewards
Yet, there is another great incentive for Christians to endure suffering. When Peter exhorts his readers to pursue righteousness in all that they do, he also encourages them to “not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this [they] were called… so that [they] may inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9). If a Christian wants to “see good days” (3:10a) and be rewarded by God, they are to live righteous lives in obedience to him (3:10-12). This may naturally mean living lives that don’t comply with the world’s standards and which goes against the grain of their surrounding culture, inviting prejudice towards them and even persecution. And God’s blessing for those who live God-centred lives does not preclude the possibility that they will experience suffering (cf. 2:19-23), and so believers should not be surprised when adversity comes their way (4:12). However, believers are exhorted to endure these trials, knowing that God will give them a final reward (3:14).
The believer’s radical response to humanity’s universal predicament of suffering brings an alternate and refreshing perspective to those who live in this anxiety-saturated world. And this flows naturally from the fact that God has called his people to live as his obedient children – to abide by his call to “be holy, because [He] is holy.” (1 Pet. 1:16).
This convincingly makes holiness one of the other major themes that we see Peter mention repeatedly throughout his epistle. Christians are called to respond to suffering in a radically different way, because God has called his people to live radically different lives. The epistle is riddled with continual exhortations to these original readers to uphold holiness in all facets of their lives.
i) The pursuit of holiness
We encounter this idea when Peter commands his readers to “not conform to the evil desires [they] had when [they] lived in ignorance.” (1 Pet. 1:14). They are to live in a way that accords with the holy essence and character of God, which undeniably includes his righteousness. God has chosen this group of people and has recreated their identity as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” (2:9a).
ii) The fruit of holiness is the glory of God
And God consecrated these redeemed sinners as his own possession for one particular divine purpose; that they “may declare the praises of him who called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9b). These people are not just given a new identity, but a new purpose as well. New Testament commentator Edmund P. Clowney puts it well when he says that “as God’s dwelling-place, the church has both a status and a ministry.” 
The church is distinct from all other peoples of the earth, appointed to do a distinct task – to proclaim God’s goodness and greatness across every border of the planet. Jesus himself says in Matthew’s gospel that his people are to “let [their] light shine before others, that they may see [their] good deeds and glorify [their] Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16; cf. 1 Pet. 2:12). By living God-honoring lives that please him, God’s people become living ambassadors who reflect the light of his glory in a world shrouded in darkness. God’s people are in awe of his mercies, such that they celebrate him in praise and worship. And authentic worship is manifested in a myriad of ways in which Peter demonstrates by listing a few examples of what a holy lifestyle look likes: abstinence from sinful desires (1 Pet. 2:11), honorable conduct among their neighbours (2:12), faithful submission to governmental powers (2:13), and much more.
It is abundantly clear that the apostle Peter had an agenda in mind when he wrote this epistle to his readers. Suffering is normative in the Christian life, and so he must have felt compelled to remind his brothers and sisters that their distressing trials and persecution had a divine purpose; to rely upon God to bring judgment to evil and to refine their faith in Him. And their perseverance in the faith will not go unrewarded. But Peter points his readers to the fact that their calling to persevere through suffering extends from a God-given purpose that is far greater than themselves; namely, that as God’s holy people, they are to live holy lives that manifest the excellencies of God in all that they do. And as his holy people live radically different lives, it will be to God’s good pleasure that the world begins to see that the gospel offers a better story, and a better life lived in communion with the God of the universe.
- What is your general understanding of suffering?
- How did you end up with this view of suffering (i.e. due to familial or cultural influence)?
- How does this epistle reshape your view on suffering?
- What is holiness according to the apostle Peter?
- How will you decide to pursue living a holy life for God?
Dear Heavenly Father,
We bring our burdens before you, resting upon you that you will give us strength and courage to persevere through the toughest seasons of discouragement and disappointment in our lives. Lord, living as your disciple here in this godless society is becoming increasingly difficult, and in our weakest moments we might feel tempted to fall back into living in accordance to the futile ways of the world, in order to find temporary relief of the hostility we experience in our everyday lives. Father, help us to remember our identity as your holy people, your delighted children, your royal priesthood, and give us the wisdom to live lives where we will honour you proudly in every circumstance we find ourselves in.
We ask this, in your Son’s precious name. Amen.
 – Clowney, E. (1992). The message of 1 Peter. Leicester u.a.: Inter-Varsity Pr., p.88.