*This post can be read in about 4 minutes. It contains a brief review and then helpful insights from a Bible commentary on 1 Peter.*
In recent years, I sometimes read through a Bible commentary as I read a certain book of the Bible. I’ve found it a very worthwhile endeavor! You should try it. The commentaries I read do not contain only academic or scholarly concerns (as some might assume) but practical or applicational content too. There should not be a dichotomy made between the academic and practical. They go together! In order to apply, you need to properly understand the text first. We can misapply when we jump to application too quickly. But that said, commentaries vary in their level of academic content, and there are ones more or less accessible to your everyday Christian, and more or less practical.
My recent post about female Bible scholars prompted me to finally pull a commentary on 1 Peter off my shelf written by Karen H. Jobes. I’d utilized it for reference in the past but not read through it in its entirety. Regarding its academic level, I’d describe it as mid-level. It has in-depth exegetical analysis, yet even so, is written in a way that the interested lay person can follow along, and it contains practical insight for our lives today.
Indeed, 1 Peter is a letter than relates very much to our lives today! Not only does the cultural situation that we find ourselves in have striking similarities, but we as western Christians in particular can have misunderstandings about suffering and the Christian life. First Peter provides a needed reminder and re-set about expectations for our lives as Christians, while pointing us to Jesus, and offering insight for living in and relating to a hostile culture.
This commentary follows a typical format. There is an introduction that covers issues like date, authorship, recipients, and major themes. Then it moves into a section by section analysis of the chapters. As you move through, there is helpful review and overview to keep you focused, not getting lost, but grasping the flow of this letter.
I’ve debated what to share from this commentary, as there is much helpful content from which to choose, but here are highlights that I thought would appeal to general readers:
♦ This letter was written to Christians in a remote and undeveloped region of Asia Minor. It was a vast geographical area with small cities few and far between and a diversified population of indigenous people, Greek settlers, and Roman colonists. If one wanted to write a letter to really influence Christianity, such a region would not seem an ideal choice. Yet… “This untamed region became the cradle of Christianity. From Asia Minor emerged people whose names are immortalized in Christian history.” (page 22) For example, in the first century came Aquila from Pontus, the Jewish tentmaker and husband of Priscilla (Acts 18:2). Fast forward to the fourth century, and from this region came the Cappadocian fathers, so important for early Christianity, defending the Nicene Creed against the heresies of Arius. I was very encouraged by this!
You could think you are laboring in an unimportant time or place, without influence, yet your Christian faithfulness maintains the faith, from which may come in a future generation those who play a monumental role. So, take heart!
♦ There is important Christology in 1 Peter. Likely you know the well known passage from 1 Peter 2:21-25 about Christ’s suffering for our sin and the references to Isaiah 53. Despite already being familiar with this content written by Peter, I’ve never contemplated the fact that this was PETER! As Jobes states:
“Ironically, the suffering of Christ has become central to the Christology of the apostle who most strongly objected to Jesus’ prediction of his death (Matt. 16:21-23; Mark 8: 31-33).” (page 192) – Wow! Let that sink in!
And the identity of Jesus as the Suffering Servant portrayed in Isaiah 53 that is so well known in Christian tradition? “What may be more surprising is that the church owes this insight to the apostle Peter alone.” (page 192)
♦ 1 Peter contains the well known passage that describes both the Lord Jesus and Christian believers as living stones in a spiritual house in which Christ is the all-important cornerstone (1 Peter 2). There is much helpful content, but I’ll share this:
“There is not even a hint that Peter thought of himself as being a special or foundational stone in the church, even though Jesus had given him the nickname that means rock. His silence here, where such a suggestion would be most natural, lends support to the understanding that the ‘rock’ of Matt. 16:18, on which Christ will build the church, is the confession of Jesus being the Christ, not Peter himself.” (page 151)
♦ If you are a regular reader of my blog, you are familiar with my robes of the high priest presentation. Jesus became our great and final high priest, and we as believers have a priestly ministry. Peter describes us as a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) and “First Peter is the only epistle to give this magnificent title to the Christian community.” (page 160)
♦ A theme of 1 Peter is that suffering is to be expected in the Christian life, and difficulty in life does NOT mean you have an inadequate faith or have somehow failed in your faith. “In 1 Peter the Christian life is very much the way of the cross.” (page 47) – This important theme in 1 Peter is much needed in our day when Christians can too often think that being a Christian means the opposite – wealth, health, prosperity, and success.
♦ While we may suffer unjustly and for doing good, 1 Peter also warns us to be careful that we aren’t suffering for behaving badly! I’ll refer you to another recent post for insight about this. See the later half of this post.
It really was a challenge to decide what nuggets to pull out for you, and I’ll end with this:
♦ Christians need to know and remember the big picture of our faith. We know how the story ends, and we await the return of Christ. “Resources for living life today are found in the knowledge of the ultimate end…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.” (page 317)
And I liked the point made in the next paragraph that Peter’s final word in this closing unit is a doxology, which likely struck the original readers in a different way than us today. “To him be the dominion forever! Amen!” (1 Peter 5:11).
“At the time Peter wrote these words, to all human appearances it must have seemed that to Rome instead belonged the dominion forever…In the face of Roman might, Peter ends his epistle by confessing that to God alone belongs eternal might which makes Rome look like a withered flower (1:24). God’s eternal might constitutes his eternal dominion, for no other power can conquer or thwart his sovereign purposes.” (page 317)