THE LETTER OF 1 PETER
Lesson 1: Chapters 1-2
Part I Greeting
Part II: The Gift and Call of God in Baptism
Part III: The Christian in a Hostile World
Merciful heavenly Father,
You have given us renewed life through the gift of Your Divine grace in Christian Baptism. In the waters of Baptism we die to sin and are reborn in the Holy Spirit to new life in Christ. Give us the strength of faith, Lord, to strive to be worthy of Your gift of grace as we give our witness of renewed life as holy children of the Most Holy Trinity. In our Christian witness of living in imitation of Christ, we profess His Gospel of salvation, only using words when necessary and otherwise letting our deeds of love speak loudly of our belief in all Jesus taught His Church. We are thankful, Lord, for the righteous leadership You have given Your Church, beginning with St. Peter and the faithful Apostles. Please continue to give us holy leadership in future generations until the return of Your Son at the end of the Age. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed
are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock
I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail
against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you
bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall
be loosed in heaven."
(Note: "son of Jonah" is a symbolic title comparing Peter to the Prophet Jonah who God sent to the city of Nineveh to convert the Gentile population. Christ will send Peter to Rome to convert the Roman Empire and the Gentile world).
Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son
of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know
that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a
second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, Yes, Lord,
you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him
the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed
that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him,
"Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him,
"Feed my sheep."
In addition to the four Gospels and the Book of Acts, fourteen of the New Testament letters are attributed to St. Paul: ten letters to faith communities in Asia Minor and Greece, including one that is a homily to the Jewish-Christians of Jerusalem (Letter to the Hebrews), and four other letters to individuals. But there are also eight additional letters that were written not to communities but to New Covenant churches as a whole: three letters are attributed to St. John the Apostle, one letter to St. James (Jesus' kinsman and the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem), one to St. Jude, one of the visions of the Book of Revelation attributed to St. John, and two letters that are attributed to Christ's Vicar, St. Peter the Apostle.
In his first letter to the universal Church, St. Peter writes to Christians in five different provinces of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor to encourage their faith in a time of trial. He urges them to continue to offer praise to God the Father who is the source of all mercy. The focus of his letter is that God's mercy is the basis for the New Covenant made through the redemptive work of God the Son in God's divine plan for mankind's salvation. Speaking of God's mercy as the foundation for the blessings received in the New Covenant in Christ, Peter asks all Christians to persevere in suffering and to appreciate that there is a continuity of the works of God's mercy in the Scriptures of the Old Testament that is fulfilled in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in the New and eternal Covenant that is established in the blood of our Savior and Redeemer.
In the early spring of 30 AD, after the coming of God the Holy Spirit at the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the feast of Firstfruits on which Jesus arose from the dead, St. Peter preached his first great homily and about 3,000 Jews came to belief in Jesus Christ. They were added to the New Covenant Church (Acts 2:41), significantly replacing the 3,000 that were lost to the Old Covenant Church in the rebellion of the golden calf (Ex 32:28). Peter and the Apostles continued to fearlessly preach the Gospel of salvation in Jerusalem despite persecution by the Jewish religious leaders. Peter and John were arrested by the Sanhedrin and Peter gave another stirring homily to the very governing body that had condemned Jesus to death (Mk 14:63-64; Acts 4:5-22). They continued to go daily to the Temple to preach, and soon the number of Jewish converts had grown to about 5,000, including priests and Pharisees (Acts 4:4; 6:7; 15:5; 21:20).
Finally the rage of the opposition could not be contained and they lashed out at a young deacon named Stephen who they unlawfully tried and then stoned to death (Acts 7). It was then that many of the disciples left Jerusalem and, like the deacon Philip, began to preach and found faith communities in Samaria, Phoenicia, and Syria (Acts 8:1, 4-8; 11:19). When Peter and the other Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to lay hands upon the new converts that they might receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation (Acts 8:14-17). This was the beginning of the practice of bishops confirming the newly baptized and will be significant in understanding Peter's first letter.
The Church continued to grow, and as head of the Church, and in the year c. 39 AD, Peter greeted a former persecutor of Christians and recent convert named Saul (St. Paul) and spent 15 days with him (Acts 9:26-30; Gal 1:18). The Church was experiencing a period of peace at this time and many faith communities were springing up throughout Judea, Samaria, Phoenicia and Syria (Acts 9:31). It was at this time that the Apostles sent St. Barnabas to Antioch, Syria to teach the new community of Jewish and Gentile Christians, and Barnabas took Saul/Paul with him (Acts 11:20-26).
Then in c. 42 AD, King Herod Agrippa I (ruled 41-44 AD) had some leaders of the Jerusalem church arrested including the Apostle St. James Zebedee who he had martyred by the sword. When he saw his actions pleased the Jews he had St. Peter arrested and planned to have him executed during the feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread (Acts 12:1-5). The night before his execution, an angel of the Lord released Peter from his chains and led him out of the prison. Realizing he could no longer stay in Jerusalem Peter left the city and according to early Church historians, Peter spent 7 years with the Christian community in Antioch, Syria (see Paul's mention of Peter's presence in Antioch in Gal 1:11) before leaving for Rome where he established the headquarters of the Church, just as Jesus had predicted when Jesus compared him to the prophet Jonah whose mission was to carry the word of God to capital city of the most powerful nation in the Gentile world of Jonah's time (Mt 16:16). Now Peter had carried the word of God to the capital city of the Roman Empire and Christians would use the well-engineered Roman roads and the Roman enforced peace to carry the Gospel to every corner of the Roman world. Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (4th century) and St. Jerome (5th century) recorded that Peter spent 25 years leading the Church from Rome, first going to Rome in c. 42 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius (reigned 41-54 AD). It is from Rome that most Church Fathers testify he wrote his two letters to the Church.(1)
Authorship and Date
The majority of the early Church Fathers, with very few exceptions, believed that the First Letter of Peter was written by the Apostle Peter and was sent to Christian faith communities in five Roman Provinces who are "sojourners of the dispersion," those living in the Diaspora, identified as the regions outside of Judea (i.e., Irenaeus, Eusebius of Caesarea, Didymus, Andreas, Oecumenius). These were mixed communities of Jews and Gentiles but perhaps with a larger Gentile presence as suggested by Peter's comments in 1 Peter 1:14, 18; 2:9-10 and 4:3-4.
The Fathers observed that the letter had similarities to the Letter of St. James. This similarity in vocabulary in the two letters can be accounted for by the fact that both men were Galilean in their ethnicity and in their education in Galilean Synagogue schools and so the vocabulary that they used would be similar. The Church Fathers recognized St. Peter as the chief of the Apostles appointed by Christ and believed that this letter had been sent from Rome. The letter was written a the beginning of organized Christian persecution by the Romans that began in 64 AD and prior to St. Peter's martyr's death in 67 AD. The evidence that the letter was written from Rome comes from the letter itself in which Peter makes a reference to writing "from Babylon" (1 Pt 5:13), a code name for Rome in the early Church.
The Letter's Style and Content
The letter is written in elegant Greek which can probably be attributed to Peter's amanuensis (secretary), Silvanius (a Latinization of the Hebrew name Silas), a Jewish Christian and a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37-38) who is mentioned by Peter in 1 Peter 5:12. This is probably the same Silvanius/Silas who was an important figure in the Church in Jerusalem and later at Antioch, who accompanied St. Paul on his second missionary journey and who assisted Paul with some of his letters (2 Cor 1:19; also see Acts 15:22, 27, 32, 34, 40; 16:19, 25, 29; 17:4, 10, 14, 15; 18:5; 1 Thes 1:1; 2 Thes 1:1). St. Mark, who was also Peter's amanuensis in Rome, is mentioned affectionately in the letter (5:13).
The letter is a mixture of moral exhortation with catechetical summaries of the grace of God and mercies in Christ along with encouragement to remain faithful when faced with suffering and persecution. There is a strong emphasis on baptism and also various allusions to features of the baptismal liturgy that suggests Peter's letter was intended to be read at a baptismal and/or confirmation liturgy. If so, it is proof that the sacramental elements of the baptismal rite had a very early date in the Church.
St. Peter's letter was sent to Christian communities located in the five Roman provinces of Asia Minor that included areas evangelized by St. Paul (1 Pt 1:1; Acts 16:6-7; 18:23). He encouraged Christians living in those communities to remain faithful in spite of threats of persecution and to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel of salvation. Peter's message then is the same as the Church's message to the faithful today: Christians have the obligation to bear witness to their hope in Jesus Christ to those who have no hope of eternal salvation.
# 12: The Universal Church of the New
and Eternal Covenant
(the Final Age of man)
|Covenant||# 8: New Covenant in Christ Jesus|
|Focus||Introduction||The Gift of salvation and call of God in Baptism||Christians in a Hostile World|
|Division||Greeting and blessing||Divine election and Christian conduct in all aspects of life||
conduct in suffering
|Jesus' example in suffering and advice||Conclusion and benediction|
|Topic||Faith of Christians||Right behavior of Christians||Behavior during trials and tribulations|
|Commitment to Holiness||Commitment to Humility|
|Location||Written in Rome and sent to churches in 5 different Roman Provinces|
c. AD 64/67
(the beginning of intense Christian persecution in the Roman Empire)
All Scripture is from the New American Bible translation unless noted otherwise as NJB (New Jerusalem Bible) or RSVCE (Revised Standard Version Catholic edition).
Part I: The Introduction and Greeting
1 Peter 1:1-2 ~ St. Peter's Greeting to the Congregations
1Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 in the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification by the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ: may grace and peace be yours in abundance.
to the chosen sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
Question: In what two ways does Peter address those to whom he has sent his letter?
Answer: He calls the "sojourners", meaning "travelers" or those who "temporarily reside in a place" and identifies them as those living in the Diaspora, meaning lands outside of the Promised Land.
St. Peter addresses the newly baptized converts as "sojourners" because they no longer belong to this world. Baptized believers who have been reborn "from above" now have the privileged status of being among "the chosen" and sanctified people and this makes them future citizens of heaven and worthy of God's grace and peace (verse 2). This is in contrast to their earthly existence as exiles and temporary residents of earthly life who are making the faith journey to Heaven through a sinful world.
Peter also identifies the receivers of his letter as "of the dispersion." It is a reference to those living outside the Promised Land God gave to the Israelites. Any region outside the Holy Land was referred to as the Diaspora. The Old Covenant people of God had been living outside the Promised Land in large numbers ever since the exile of the citizens of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians that began in 732 BC with the deportation out of the Galilee and continued in 722 with the deportation of the entire population into Assyrian lands northeast of the Euphrates River (2 Kng 15:29; 17:6). Later in the 6th century BC the citizens of Judah were also exiled but into the land of Babylon. Although a remnant returned to the Galilee and Judah in the 6th century BC, in the Hellenistic era the Jews of the Diaspora were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. The list of place names of the Provinces where Peter's letter was send and the longer list in Acts of Apostles 2:9-11 is consistent with the literary and inscriptional evidence of Jews living outside of the Holy Land and of mixed Jewish and Gentile Christian communities in the first century AD.
Question: Peter identifies God's calling of the faithful with
what formula in verse 2, and what is the blessing he imparts at the end of his
Answer: In Peter 1:2, St. Peter uses a Trinitarian formula to explain how Christians are called to belief:
Then he gives a blessing of grace and peace.
The order in Matthew 28:19 ~
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
The order in Revelation 1:4-5 ~
The Church Fathers identified the Trinitarian order in Revelation and 1 Peter as a liturgical order in naming the Most Holy Trinity as opposed to theological order in Matthew 28:19. This may be significant in pointing to Peter's homily being read in a liturgical assembly, as the visions in Revelation are in a heavenly liturgical context.
Question: How is the
liturgical order of the Most Holy Trinity reflected in the sacrifice of the
Part II: The Gift and Call of God in the Sacrament of Christian Baptism
This part of Peter's letter begins in 1:3 and concludes in 2:10. It is because of the focus on the subject of baptism that it has been suggested this was a homily to be read to those Christians who were about to receive or had recently received the Sacraments of Baptism and/or Confirmation. In the early Church it was common for the Sacrament of Confirmation to come immediately after Baptism.
Question: What happened after Philip the deacon was baptizing
the people in Samaria in Acts 8:5, 12-17? See Acts 8:14-17.
Answer: The Apostles in Jerusalem immediately sent the Apostles Peter and John to lay hands upon the newly baptized converts so they could receive the Holy Spirit.
Since it was necessary for a Bishop of the Church to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation, it is believed that Peter at this time of increasing Christian persecution either sent the letter because he was unable to attend the conferring of the Sacrament in these churches or it had become his practice, as the Vicar of Christ even if a bishop was present, to send a homily to be read at the liturgical ceremonies of the newly initiated in Baptism and Confirmation.
1 Peter 1:3-9 ~ God's Mercy Demonstrated (Peter's Blessing)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, 5 kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. 6 In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
St. Peter offers praise to God the Father who he says is the source of
mercy/grace who gave the gift of new birth in Christian baptism.
Question: How was the gift of new birth made possible?
Answer: It was made possible through the mercy/grace of God in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
In verse 3 Peter offers a blessing which in the Jewish tradition is called a berakah (literal Hebrew = "blessing"). It is a blessing acknowledging God's mercy as the basis for the New Covenant made through the redemptive work of God the Son in God's divine plan for mankind's salvation. Speaking of God's mercy as the foundation for the blessings received in the New Covenant in Christ, we can appreciate that there is a continuity of the works of God's mercy in the Old Testament that is fulfilled in the redemptive work of Jesus our Redeemer-Messiah.
3 Blessed be the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to
a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable,
undefiled, and unfading, 5 kept
in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a
salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.
Question: In verses 3-5, St. Peter gives praise to God the Father for what two benefits of His divine mercy?
Question: Why is the gift of our inheritance in Baptism kept in
Answer: Because we cannot collect our inheritance that is the gift of eternal life until our life on earth is completed and we join the risen Savior in Heaven.
6 In this you rejoice,
although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may
prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Question: What warning does St. Peter give in verse 6 and what is the promise in verse 7 that is meant for all Christians of all ages?
Answer: These gifts and blessings do not keep us from experiencing suffering and persecution that is a test of our faith. Even so, we should have no fear, because in this temporary life we are protected by faith in the power of God and our trials will purify our faith so that we will be able to give greater praise, glory, and honor to Christ.
Verse 6 is Peter's first mention of suffering. It is a theme he will develop further as his letter continues and in which he will contrast the human perspective of suffering with the divine perspective:
Suffering through various trials
(1 Pt 1:6b)
Rejoice, trials are temporary and you suffer for Christ
(1 Pt 1:6a, c)
Suffering subjugation by the powerful
(1 Pt 2:18)
Resist evil by doing good
(1 Pt 2:21)
Suffering in the flesh
(1 Pt 4:1)
Give up harmful desires of the flesh
(1 Pt 4:2)
Suffering persecution for the faith
(1 Pt 4:12-15)
Rejoice to share in Christ's sufferings
(1 Pt 4:13-14)
Suffering for the sake of God's will
(1 Pt 4:19a)
Such suffering increases spiritual growth
(1 Pt 4:19b)
Suffering from a Satanic attack
(1 Pt 5:8)
Resist and Christ will restore, confirm, strengthen,
and establish you
(1 Pt 5:10)
Peter encourages the faithful by writing that not only is our future inheritance in heaven secure, but even now on earth we are safeguarded through our faith in Christ Jesus for a salvation that is already revealed. Peter's point is just as Jesus' resurrection was preceded by His suffering and death, so can the newly reborn Christian in the Sacrament of Baptism expect that their declared "new life" will bring persecution from the world, but they have the promise that just as Christ was resurrected after His sufferings so too will they be resurrected from suffering in this life to join Christ in the next, in eternal life. Christian baptism was the "first resurrection" (Jn 3:3-5; Rom 6:1-11), the "first death" is on earth, and the bodily resurrection when Christ returns was called the "second resurrection:" Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection. The second death has no power of these... (Rev 20:6). The "second death" is the Final Judgment at the end of time (Rev 2:11; 20:14). It became a saying of the early Fathers: "Born once, die twice; born twice, die once."
7 so that the
genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even
though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the
revelation of Jesus Christ.
Question: To what event is Peter referring in verse 7 when he writes about "the revelation of Christ"?
Answer: St. Peter is referring to the Second Advent of Christ.
Peter writes that our works will be tested by fire. St. Paul wrote about the final trial by fire of our works and deeds in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15: If anyone builds on this foundation with God , silver, precious stones, wood, hay , or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one's work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss, the person will be saved, but only as through fire. The "Day" is the Day of Individual Judgment and each professed believer in Christ will be judged according to his or her works of faith in a place of purification that the Church calls Purgatory (CCC 1030-32). The point not to be missed is that only the believers are purified by the fiery love of God because they will not lose their salvation but may only pass through the fire with all selfish deeds and venial sins burned up and nothing to show for their works of love in the name of God. But those whose good works survive the purifying fire of God will receive a reward (1 Cor 3:8).(2)
8 Although you have not
seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 as you attain the goal of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.
Question: Peter's statement in verse 8 recalls what statement by Jesus to St. Thomas after Jesus' Resurrection in John 20:29?
Answer: After Thomas placed his finger into Jesus' wounds at Jesus' invitation he declared: "My Lord and my God!" Jesus responded: "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Peter appears to be recalling this event and applying Jesus' blessing to them.
In the next five sections of his letter, Peter addresses what is necessary to the Christian's formation as a "new creature" in Christ:
1 Peter 1:10-12 ~ Salvation
10 Concerning this salvation, prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and investigated it, 11 investigating the time and circumstances that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the glories to follow them. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you with regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels longed to look.
"Salvation" is the general term that Peter uses as the sum of all that we receive in Christ. It refers to our present state as new creatures in Christ that comes through faith and the Sacraments of Christian Baptism and Confirmation, but it also points to the future destiny that is ours when Christ returns. Peter's point is that our salvation is both present and future. It is something we have already through faith and Baptism, but our salvation will be fully completed only when see Christ face to face (CCC 163). In Scripture salvation is never referred to as a one-time event. Salvation is a process with many points of justification along each individual's faith journey to the gates of heaven and eternal salvation.
|Ephesians 2:5||1 Peter 1:8-9||Romans 13:11|
|Ephesians 2:8||1 Corinthians 1:18||1 Corinthians 3:15|
|Philippians 2:12||1 Corinthians 5:5|
Question: How is this passage in verses 10-12 an acknowledgment
of the unity and continuity of the Old and New Testaments? See Is 52:13-53:12.
Answer: The Holy Spirit's role in salvation was active in the Old Testament through the prophets of God like Isaiah who announced the future suffering of God's "Servant" and His resurrection in glory that would result in the promise of salvation. Now in the New Covenant, what was promised has come about, and it is the preachers of the Gospel who announce it inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 1:13-16 ~ Obedience
13 Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance 15 but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, 16 for it is written, "Be holy because I am holy."
Old Testament references in
1 Peter chapter 1
|Old Testament Passages|
|1:16 for it is written, "Be holy because I am holy."||Leviticus 11:45b ... be holy because I am holy.|
|1:24 for: "all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; but the word of the Lord remains forever."||Isaiah 40:6b-8 "All mankind [flesh] is grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it ... Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever."|
Verses 13-16 are a call for the newly baptized to live lives of holiness and mutual love based on redemption through the blood of Jesus. Peter asks them to be resolute in their commitment to live a righteous Christian life and to set that steady course by their hope in the grace won for them by the merits of Jesus Christ. It would appear that verse 14 is addressed to the Gentile members of the congregation who did not live in the past under the Laws of righteousness that the Jewish Christians were accustomed to living (also see 1 Pt 1:18; 2:9-10 and 4:3-4). Their ignorance was their former lack of knowledge of God that led them to godless conduct. They had to abandon their former pagan practices to become the holy children of a holy God.
15 but, as he who called
you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, 16 for it is written, "Be holy because I
In verse 16 Peter quotes from God's command that His covenant people be holy, repeated twice in Leviticus 11:44a and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy, and 45b you shall be holy, because I am holy.
1 Peter 1:17-21 ~ Holiness of Christian Conduct
17 If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one's works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, 18 realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold 19 but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. 20 He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, 21 who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Question: St. Peter describes the effect Christ's death and
resurrection has on believers in terms of what past event in salvation history?
See Ex 12:1-13.
Answer: He is describing the effect of Christ's liberation of mankind from sin and death in terms of the first Passover in the Exodus liberation where an unblemished victim lamb or goat kid died in the place of the firstborn sons of Israel.
The Christian's faith journey is like the Exodus Passover experience of Israel. Christians are sojourners in a strange land who have been delivered by the blood of a spotless victim: Jesus Christ. We first experience His deliverance in the Sacrament of Baptism, as we make our way on our faith journey through this earthly life. We have hope and faith in our final deliverance from the sufferings of this temporal existence because Jesus was raised from the dead according to the set plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23) that was determined before the creation of the world (1 Pt 1:20). Earthly treasures are perishable, but Christ has given us an imperishable gift. The redemption by the blood of Christ and Jesus' Resurrection to glory that was God the Father's eternal plan is the way God has consecrated His New Covenant people who through faith have the hope of their future eternal resurrection.
that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors,
not with perishable things like silver or gold 19 but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless
Gentile Christians have been ransomed from the ignorance (verse 14) of the pagan beliefs their ancestors handed on to them, and that ransom was the precious blood of the Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). For Jews blood was the symbol of life and the life of a sinner could only be redeemed through blood sacrifice (Lev 17:11). The full and complete ransom of the life of sinners that animal sacrifice could not fulfill was a ransom prophesied to Jews by the prophets like Isaiah and fulfilled in the self-offering of Jesus Christ (see Is 53:7, 10; also see Rom 3:24-25; 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; CCC 613).
20 He was known before
the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, 21 who through him believe in God who
raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in
Peter affirms the pre-existence of the Son of God (see Jn 1:1-5).
Question: When did the death and resurrection of Jesus become God's plan for mankind's salvation? What is the link to the hearers of the letter?
Answer: The redemption by the blood of Christ in His death and the glory of His resurrection were the fulfillment of the eternal plan of God the Father from the beginning of time. Those to whom Peter is making this address are the recipients of the fulfillment of that plan in their consecration through Christian baptism in dying with Christ and being raised to new life.
1 Peter 1:22-25 ~ Regeneration by the Word for Mutual Love
22 Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a pure heart. 23 You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God, 24 for: "All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever." This is the word that has been proclaimed to you.
Question: What is the "living and abiding Word"
that is from imperishable seed?
Answer: Jesus Christ.
The "imperishable seed" is the seed of life that is the Word of God and is the principle of the Christian's divine "new birth", giving the Christian the power to act according to the will of God generated by a pure heart cleansed from sin in the Sacrament of Baptism (see CCC 1228, 2769). Then in verses 24-25 Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:6b-8, a passage that compares man to grass and flowers that have a short lifespan contrasted with the Word of God that never dies. In this case the "Word" has a double meaning: the words of God in Sacred Scripture and the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:1-10 ~ Living in Imitation of Christ
1 Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander; 2 like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, 3 for you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, 5 and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it says in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame." 7 Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," 8 and "A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall." They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. 9 But you are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you "may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were "no people" but now you are God's people; you "had not received mercy" but now you have received mercy.
Old Testament reference
in 1 Peter chapter 2
|Old Testament Reference|
|2:3 for you have tasted that the Lord is good.||Psalm 34:8/9 Taste and see that Yahweh is good... (NJB)|
|2:6 For it says in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame."||Isaiah 28:16 LXX Behold, I lay for the foundations of Zion a costly stone, a choice, a cornerstone, a precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall by no means be put to shame.|
|2:7 Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone ..."||Psalm 118:22 The stone which the builders rejected had become the cornerstone.|
|2:8 "A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall."||Isaiah 8:14 Yet he shall be a snare, an obstacle and a stumbling stone to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to those who dwell in Jerusalem ...|
|2:9a But you are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation," "a people of his own", so that you may announce the praises"||
Exodus 19:5-6 5 Therefore,
if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special
possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is
mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.
Isaiah 43:20b for my chosen people... the people whom I formed for myself that they might announce my praise.
|2:9b of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.||Isaiah 9:1 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.|
|2:10a Once you were no people but now you are God's people;||
Hosea 1:9 Give him the name Lo-ammi, for you are not my people,
and I will not be our God.
Malachi 3:17a And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action.
|2:10b you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.||
Hosea 2:25b I will say to Lo-ammi, "You are my people," and he
shall say, "My God!"
Malachi 3:17b And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion [mercy] on his son who serves him.
|2:22 He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.||Is 53:9b Though he had done no wrong not spoken any falsehood...|
|22:23 When he was insulted, he returned no insult||Is 53:7 Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth|
|2:24a He himself bore our sins in his body||
Is 53:4 Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings
that he endured
Is 53:12c And he shall take away the sins of many
|2:24b By his wounds you have been healed.||Is 53:5b By his stripes we were healed|
|2:25 For you had gone astray like sheep||Is 53:6 We had all gone astray like sheep|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015|
Question: What does Peter write that suggests the gift of
salvation is not a "one time" event in Christian Baptism in 2:3?
Answer: He says they need spiritual milk so they can "grow into salvation."
Question: Peter says that growth toward salvation comes in what
Verse 3 is probably a quote from Psalm 34:9 and its true meaning is now
revealed in the New Covenant in Christ.
Question: How have they "tasted that the Lord is good"?
Answer: In the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
4 Come to him, a living
stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, 5 and, like living stones, let yourselves
be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual
sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Question: Into what structure are the "living stones" built?
Answer: The "spiritual house" of God that is the Church.
This passage is full of Old Testament symbols and Scripture references. Rock or stone is a metaphor for God in the Old Testament (for example see Dt 32:4-16, 18, 30, 31; 2 Sam 23:3; Is 26:4; 30:29; Ps 1:3; 19:15; 62:3, 7) that Peter will use in this passage, connecting the Old Testament to its fulfillment in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. He connects imagery from several Old Testament passages, including Isaiah 28:16 that speaks of a primal foundation stone and Psalm 118:22 that identifies the promised Messiah as a stone that is both rejected and also accepted as a cornerstone or foundation stone of a new order. It was at the stone of Mt. Sinai that Yahweh ratified the Sinai Covenant with Israel, and it was the Jerusalem Temple that was built of hewn stones to make a dwelling place for God. But now the New Covenant is built upon the "living stone" that is Jesus Christ. And by virtue of their baptism into the life of Jesus Christ, Christians are also "living stones" and a "holy priesthood" to make up the "spiritual house" of the Church.
In the old Sinai Covenant, the children of Israel were also called to be a nation of priests where every firstborn son redeemed on the night of the Exodus Passover was dedicated to serving God and assisting the ministerial priesthood. But the firstborn sons became dispossessed sons in the sin of the Golden Calf when they did not rally to Moses. When the Levites rallied Moses and put down the rebellion, they replaced the firstborn sons in priestly service (Ex 32:26, 29; Num 11:14-16). First St. Peter offers allusions to God's selection of Israel as His "chosen people" in Exodus 19 at the rock of Mt. Sinai. Then he says the new holy people are founded on another "Rock," the "living stone" that is Christ Jesus. Peter compares both Christ and Christians to "living stones." Christ is the "living stone" that was rejected by His own people (Ps 118:22; Acts 4:10-12) but chosen and precious to God (cf. Mt 3:17; 17:5; Lk 1:31-33; 9:15). Baptized believers also become "living stones" that are incorporated into Christ's Kingdom by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Baptism. In the New Covenant, a new priestly order of believers has been established to serve God along with a ministerial order, becoming the common priesthood of the baptized (CCC 1141, 1143, 1268, 1273, 1546-47) who share in the priesthood of Christ (CCC 1591). These members are consecrated to be a "spiritual house" that is the Church and to a "holy priesthood" serving that "house." This common priesthood is united to Christ who is the sole priest in which all His members participate. The priesthood of believers offers spiritual sacrifices that become the living presence of Christ with His Church (see CCC 1141, 1179).
6 For it says in
Scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and
precious, and whoever believes in it shall to be put to shame." 7 Therefore, its value is for you who
have faith, but for those without faith: "The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone..."
St. Peter supports his theme of Christ's acceptance and rejection by more quotes from parts of passages from the Old Testament: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame" is a quote from Isaiah 28:16 LXX but which Peter has adapted to his message. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has become the "cornerstone" of God's people, a stone that is both precious and chosen, and those who believe in Christ will "not be put to shame" or disgraced. However, the value of Christ is only for those who have faith: 7 Therefore, its value is for you who have faith...
but for those without faith: "The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,"
The theme of acceptance and rejection continues in the next two verses which are quotes and allusions from Psalm 118:22 LXX in verse 7, Isaiah 8:14 in verse 8, and allusions to Exodus 19:5-6, and Isaiah 43:19-21 in verses 9-10. "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" is a quote from Psalm 118:22. It is the same passage Jesus applied to Himself (Mt 21:42; Mk 12:10; Lk 20:17) and which Peter quoted to the Jewish Sanhedrin in his trial, identifying Jesus as the "cornerstone" and defiantly telling the Jewish leaders that they are "the builders" who rejected Christ the "cornerstone" and Messiah (Acts 4:10-12).
8 and "A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall." They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. Verse 8 is an allusion to Isaiah 8:14 ~ 14 Yet he shall be a snare, an obstacle and a stumbling stone to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to those who dwell in Jerusalem; 15 and many among them shall stumble and fall, broken, snared, and captured." To unbelievers Jesus Christ is an obstacle and a stumbling block upon which they are destined to fall because they do not believe in the Word (see Rom 11:11).
9 But you are "a chosen
race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may
announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful
That Christians are now "a chosen race" (see Ex 19:5 and Is 43:20b-21) indicates their divine election (Eph 1:4-6) to serve and worship God in Christ. The Jews were to be the "chosen people" destined to bring forth the Redeemer-Messiah, but when they rejected Him they lost their divine prerogatives which have now been transferred to the Christians (1 Pt 3:9; Acts 28:26-28). Verse 9 recalls Israel's divine commissioning as God's chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation at Mt Sinai from Exodus 19:5-6 and the promised "light" in Isaiah 9:1 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone, as well as the "something new" in the prophecy of a "chosen people" from Isaiah 43:19-21. By their rejection of Jesus and His Gospel of salvation, the Jews stumbled into darkness and lost their prerogatives which have now been transferred to the New Covenant Church of the "new Israel" who live in the presence of "the Light" of the world that is Jesus Christ (Jn 8:12; CCC 877).
10 Once you were "no
people" but now "you are God's people"; you "had not received mercy" but "now
you have received mercy [compassion]."
Peter gives another Old Testament allusion, this time to Hosea 1:9 and 2:25 and Malachi 7:17. In Hosea 1:9 God tells Hosea to perform a prophetic act in naming his newborn son Lo-ammi, a name meaning "not my people" to symbolize God turning away from of a sinful and unrepentant Israel. Then in Hosea 2:25, God promises to have pity on Israel who He will espouse again, forgiving Israel's collective sins and in love and mercy will say, "You are my people," accepting them back into His covenant. Christians (especially the Gentile Christains) have gone from being among those who were "no people" to being the "chosen people" who are the recipients of God's divine mercy. In Malachi, the last of the prophetic books, God promised that the day would come when He would again claim a people for Himself upon who He will have compassion.
Christians are a new "royal priesthood (Ex 19:6), continuing the priestly functions of Jesus' life in virtue of Christian baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection. They are a "holy nation" (like Israel in Ex 19:6) reserved for God as a "chosen people" He claims for his own (see Is 43:20 and Mal 3:17). The titles in verses 9-10 not only identify the unity of the Church's relationship with God but its responsibility in the world. God has called us out of the "darkness" of sin into the "light" of Christ (Jn 1:9; 9:12). It is a message of "light" that Christians are called to share with the world.
Part III: Christians in a Hostile World
In this part of Peter's letter he gives advice concerning Christian behavior in the world:
1 Peter 2:11-12 ~ Christian Conduct
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. 12 Maintaining good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Having explained the doctrinal basis for the election of the baptized
and a "chosen people" and a "priestly nation," St. Peter now presents practical
examples the virtues that should prevail in all the relationships of the
members of the community of the faithful. Christians are "aliens and
sojourners" because of their estrangement from the secular world on their
journey to salvation.
Question: Why does Peter urge Christians to maintain good conduct among the unbelieving Gentiles?
Answer: Their good conduct will give proof that they are not evildoers and their good works will give glory to God on the day of Christ's return
1 Peter 2:13-17 ~ Christian Citizens
13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. 15 For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God. 17 Give honor to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king.
Peter urges Christians to be obedient subjects of their local
governments so that their good citizenship will win approval for all Christians.
Question: What does Peter say is true Christian freedom?
Answer: True freedom comes from being obedient slaves/servants of God and committing no action that is contrary to the teachings of Christ and the commandments.
Question: Peter concludes his advice on good citizenship by
giving what four commands and what do those commands mean?
1 Peter 2:18-20 ~ Christian Slaves
18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse. 19 For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. 20 But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.
The fundamental principles for Christian life in the world that Peter addressed earlier (1 Pt 2:11-17) are now applied to specific roles of Christian slaves within the households of their masters. He tells them that when they patiently bear unjust suffering it will count to their credit with God. Peter says this form of unjust suffering is "a grace from God" (charis para theo in verse 20). No act of righteousness, even in suffering, is without merit in the eyes of God.
1 Peter 2:21-25 ~ Following the Example of Christ
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. 22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."23 When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you had "gone astray like sheep," but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
In a series of references to the "Suffering Servant" passages in the Book of Isaiah, in verses 21-25 Peter compares the unjust suffering Christian slaves may have to endure to the suffering of Christ. He applies the familiar shepherd metaphor to the guidance Jesus offers to those who suffer. There is no glory for those who suffer from temporal judgments due to sin, but there is the promise of God's grace and salvation for those who endure unjust suffering for having done what is good. He presents the teaching of Christian life as a calling to follow the pattern of Christ's life in His suffering as well as in His glory (also see Rom 12:1). The phrase "follow in his footsteps" turns from the idea of imitating Jesus' life pattern to the more dynamic metaphor of following so closely as to walk in His "footsteps."
In verse 22 Peter quotes from the prophet Isaiah in 53:9b from the LXX: He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. Then in verses 22-25, continuing to be inspired by Isaiah chapter 53, he alludes to the plight of Isaiah's "Suffering Servant, applying the passage to Christ's Passion. In verse 24 he merges phrases and images from Isaiah 53:4, 7 and 11-12 and unites the key words from those verses with what might be an allusion to the curse for one "hung on a tree" from Deuteronomy 22:22 (see the same allusion by Peter in Acts 5:30; 10:39 and by St. Paul in Gal 3:13). "By his wounds you have been healed" is a direct quote from Isaiah 53:5b LXX with the exception of changing "we" to "you" to fit the quotation into the context of his exhortation in 2:24.
In verse 25 Peter now shifts his imagery to the "shepherd and sheep" metaphors from Isaiah 53:5-6 and "gone astray like sheep" in verse 25 is a direct quote from Isaiah 53:6a. Jesus is the "Good Shepherd" (Jn 10:11) of Christians who have "now returned" to Him (verse 25). The returning does not refer to Christians who have fallen away from Jesus but refers instead to the fundamental conversion Peter spoke of in 1 Peter 1:14-16, 22 and 23. The Christian journey of faith is one of continual conversion in "returning" to holiness and living in the image of Christ.
The same shepherd metaphor St. Peter used is applied to Jesus in the Gospels (Mt 9:36; 10:6; 15:24; 26:31; Mk 6:34; 14:27; Jn 10:11-18) and is applied to Christ by Peter in 1 Peter 5:4 where Peter calls Jesus the "chief Shepherd." The shepherd imagery is also applied to the leadership of the Christian community (cf 1 Pt 5:3) who shepherd Jesus' flock and "feed" them spiritually through Jesus' teachings and the Sacrament of the Eucharist as Jesus commanded Peter in their post resurrection meeting when Jesus said: "Feed my sheep" (Jn 21:15-17).
Question for reflection or group discussion:
How would you assess your own behavior as a baptized Christian? Without being told, would your co-workers or neighbors know that you are a Christian? What can you do to follow St. Peter's advice on how a Christian should behave in the secular world?
1. See Eusebius, Church History, Book II.14.6; Book II.15.1-2; Jerome, De virus illustribus, c.1.
2. Under the divine plan in the old covenants prior to the Resurrection of Christ, this place of purification was called in Hebrew Sheol and in Greek Hades. Since the gates of Heaven were closed since the Fall of Adam (CCC 536, 1026), all the dead, both the righteous and the wicked, went to Sheol/Hades where the wicked suffered in atonement for their sins and the righteous awaited the Advent of the Messiah in the company of father Abraham (see CCC 633). Jesus gives a good description of Sheol and the two conditions for souls in His parable of "Lazarus and the Rich Man" (Lk 16:19-31) Jesus descended into Sheol from His grave and preached the Gospel of salvation to the dead, rescuing the righteous dead who accepted Him as their Redeemer -Messiah and taking them into Heaven (1 Pt 3:19-20; 4:6). From the time of Jesus' Resurrection, all the righteous who die in a state of grace go immediately into Heaven and all the wicked condemn themselves to the Hell of the damned. Those souls who have been saved through Baptism and their faith in Christ but whose souls are still in need of purification go to Sheol which from the point of Christ's liberation of the souls imprisoned there is now only for purification of souls destined for Heaven. The Church calls this state of purification, Purgatory, from the Latin for "to purify." The place of purification, Hades in the Greek will exist until the Final Judgment when there is no longer a need for it to continue (Rev 20:14). Since this state of purification exists until the time of the Last Judgment, there must still be a need for it.
Chapter 1 (CCC 2627); 1:3-9 (CCC 2627); 1:3 (CCC 654); 1:7 (CCC 1031); 1:10-12 (CCC 712); 1:18-20 (CCC 602); 1:18-19 (CCC 517); 1:18 (CCC 622); 1:19 (CCC 613); 1:23 (CCC 1228, 2769)
Chapter 2:1-10 (CCC 2769); 2:1 (CCC 2475); 2:4-5 (CCC 1141, 1179); 2:4 (CCC 552); 2:5 (CCC 756, 901, 1268, 1330, 1546); 2:7 (CCC 756); 2:9 (CCC 709, 782, 803, 1141, 1268, 1546); 2:13-17 (CCC 1899); 2:13 (CCC 2238); 2:16 (CCC 2238); 2:21 (CCC 618); 2:24 (CCC 612)
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.