- Salutation (1:1, 2)
- The blessings of believers (1:3 - 2:10)
- The conduct of believers (2:11 - 4:11)
- Constancy in suffering (4:12 - 5:11)
- Conclusion and benediction (5;12-14)
Authorship, date, and background
1 Peter was written by the apostle Peter. The view has been challenged in the modern era though it was view of the church through the ages. Objections to Petrine have been based on linguistic, theological, and historical considerations. However, Peter identified Silvanus as his secretary (amanuensis), and this could well explain anything which gives the appearance of being un-Petrine. Certainly the internal evidences clearly affirm the Petrine authorship of the letter, and his identification of John Mark's presence with him also attests to it. The whole letter gives the appearance of an eyewitness to the events described. Thus one can only confidently insist that Peter was indeed the author.
Peter's greeting at the end of the letter from the church in Babylon has been generally understood to refer to Rome. There are evidences which confirm the opinion that Peter was martyred in Rome under Nero around A.D. 65-67. This does not mean that he founded the church at Rome, only that he was there at the end of his life. Thus the letter was written in Rome and sent to "the strangers... scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (1:1). Certainly many of them therefore were Jewish Christians who had been converted to Christ and were now among the dispersed. Other references in the letter suggest that at least a few of them were Gentile converts. Possibly Peter had preached to the people to whom he wrote the letter. This may be one reason for Paul's not having evangelized in some of these areas, since he sought to go where Christ had not been preached. Now persecution had come and would grow worse in the years ahead. The situation required some word from the apostle by way of comfort and encouragement. This came in the letter.
Characteristics and content
The basic theme of 1 Peter is a lively hope in the midst of persecution and suffering. More than a dozen times Peter refers to persecution: "...ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations" (1:6); "for this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully (2:19); "...if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye" (3:14); "for it is better... that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing" (3:17); etc. These all indicate persecution then or in the future and Peter encourages them to meet it with the knowledge that victory would be theirs at last.
The letter clearly teaches the sovereignty of God both with respect to the choice of Jesus Christ as the slain Lamb from before the foundation of the world and these believers as chosen of god (1:2; 2:9). Suffering is part of the believer's identification with Christ and his suffering. This is a privilege and points to future joy and gladness. The repeated mention of Christ's suffering bears all the earmarks of one who was there when it happened. In staccato- like fashion, the apostle uses imperative to tell believers what they are to do. Nowhere else in the New Testament letters will this be found to the same degree. Thus Peter says: be holy (1:15); be honest (2:12); obey every law (2:13); show respect for everyone (2:17); wives be in subjection to your husbands (3:1); husbands, give honor to your wives (3:7); be of one mind (3:8); be sober, thoughtful men of prayer (4:7); rejoice (4:13); and, "let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or a busybody in other men's matters" (4:15).
Peter's conclusion fits in with his certainty that they will be persecuted. He says believers are to be careful to watch out for Satan's attacks and to stand firm when he does attack. They are to trust the Lord and know that other believers around the world are also being persecuted. But after they have suffered they can be absolutely certain that God will give them his eternal glory. He will perfect, establish, and strengthen them (5:10). Why then should Christians fear anything or anyone?