THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER
Lesson 2: Chapters 3-5
Part III (continued): The Christian in a Hostile World

My Lord and Savior,
You warned us that because the world hated You that the world will also hate us. As Christians who are taught only to love, it is sometimes hard for us to comprehend how anyone could live in hate, especially toward a people who are bound by their beliefs only to love and do good works in the name of God. Keep our hearts from being hardened against the world when we come into conflict with such evil, and give us the strength we need to stand firmly against malicious attacks without losing our love and compassion for those who have been blinded by the ruler of this world. We claim Your promise, Lord, that if we suffer with You we will be resurrected with You when You return in glory to judge all mankind. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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For if you think heaven is still closed, remember that the Lord left here the keys thereof to Peter, and through him to the Church; which keys every one that is here questioned and confesses, shall carry with him.
Tertullian (150 -220 AD)

Hail! Peter, tongue of the disciples, voice of the preachers, eye of the Apostles, guardian of heaven, first-born of those who bear the keys!
St. Ephraim (306-370 AD)

The content of the4 Letter of First Peter suggests that his letter was to be read in a liturgical assembly of Jewish and Gentile Christians for the newly baptized members of the faith communities in five different Roman provinces. In his greeting, St. Peter invokes the blessing of the Most Holy Trinity upon the congregations in a liturgical formula (Father, Spirit, Son). And then Peter uses liturgical language when he says: "sprinkled with the blood of Jesus" that would have struck a familiar cord in the consciousness of at least the Jewish members of the congregation. Sprinkling blood was an important part of the liturgical worship services in the Jerusalem Temple where the blood of the sacrificed victims was sprinkled on both the altar in the Temple courtyard and on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies during the annual Feast of Atonement (Lev 16:11-19) and in other parts of the blood ritual for certain classes of sacrifices. It was in the same way that Jesus' atoning blood was "sprinkled" on the altar of the Cross.(1)

St. Peter's letter can be divided into three main sections: Greeting, advice to the newly baptized, and how to live in a hostile world. After his greeting, St. Peter writes earnestly concerning the grace of God imparted to the newly baptized who are now God's "chosen people" and their obligations to God and the covenant in their new lives. In the third part of his letter Peter gives practical advice on how Christians should live in a hostile world by continuing to be a holy people of a holy God, sharing the love of Christ within the community and with others in the secular world. In lesson 2 he continues that advice.

Chapter 3

1 Peter 3:1-7 ~ Advice to Christian Wives and Husbands

1 Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct 2 when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior. 3 Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, 4 but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For this is also how the holy women who hoped in God once used to adorn themselves and were subordinate to their husbands; 6 thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him "lord." You are her children when you do what is good and fear no intimidation. 7 Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

The Greek word hupotasso in verse 1 means: "to be subordinate, to obey or under obedience (obedient), to submit oneself." Peter's advice is for the newly baptized women who are in "mixed marriages" to either Gentile pagans or Jews who have not converted to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. Theirs was a difficult burden to carry in being faithful to the Lord Jesus and obedient and considerate of husbands who were not always considerate to them concerning their commitment to their faith.

Question: What three marital virtues does St. Peter mention that were typical for virtuous women of his time? See verses 1-2.
Answer: The virtues of obedience, reverence (treating their husbands with respect), and chastity.

Question: St. Peter gives the practice of these virtues for Christian women what new motivation?
Answer: Christian women are to practice these virtues so that they may be instrumental in the conversion of their pagan or Jewish husbands to Christianity.

St. Augustine wrote movingly to the Lord about how his virtuous Christian mother, St. Monica, was able to bring his carnal, pagan Roman father to faith in Jesus Christ through these same virtues: "... she served [her husband] as her lord. She made every effort to win him to you, speaking of you to him by her behavior, by which you made her beautiful to her husband, respected and loved by him and admirable in his sight ... The result was that towards the very end of his life she won her husband to you; and once he was a Christian she no longer had to complain of the things she had had to bear with before he was a Christian" (Confessions, 9.9). Augustine's case was not unique. Throughout the history of the Church many virtuous Christian women have brought about the conversion of pagan husbands or baptized husbands who had fallen away from the Church.

St. Peter also urges women to be more concerned with internal beauty of the soul than outward adornment.
Question: What example does he give from the Old Testament for them to follow and what was that woman's significant role in salvation history?
Answer: He gives the example of Sarah in the Book of Genesis who was obedient to her husband Abraham and helped to fulfill God's plan by giving birth in advanced old age to her son Isaac. It was through Isaac that God's covenant promises to Abraham continued through her descendants who were the children of Israel and reach its climax in Jesus of Nazareth.

In verse 7 Peter identifies the source of the dignity of women when he writes: 7 Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
The "gift of life" St. Peter refers to is baptism. St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote: "Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift ...We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called a gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame, bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship" (Oratio 40, 3-4).

Peter writes that husbands must show understanding and respect for their wives.
Question: Why does Peter say wives are due respect from their husbands and what is the warning to husbands who fail in this duty to their wives?
Answer: He says women are due respect since they are "joint heirs" who are equal to men because they are also God's children and have the same supernatural destiny as men. Husbands who to fail in the duty to give their wives respect and understanding run the risk of causing a breach in their relationship with God.

The Church was the first institution in history to declare the equality of men and women, an unheard of position in the ancient world. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. Paul wrote: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendant, heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:28-29).

1 Peter 3:8-12 ~ Christian conduct
8 Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. 9 Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For: "Whoever would love life and see good days 11 must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers."

Christians who are "living stones" (2:5) of the Church who form one Body in Christ should also be of one mind.
Question: What four positive attributes does Peter name that should identify Christians who are of one mind with Christ and their brethren?
Answer: They should be sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble.

In verses 10-12 St. Peter quotes from Psalm 34:13-17a/12-16a which begins in verse 13/12 with Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. He quoted earlier from Psalm 34:8 in 1 Peter 2:3. The promised blessing of Psalm 34:13-17 is among the inherited blessings from the Old Covenant for Christians who live a holy ordered life in Christ.

Peter urges Christians to reject the human response to being treated badly by acting badly in return by simply blessing those who have cause offense.
Question: What reason does Peter give for responding evil with good in quoting from Psalm 34:13-17/12-16?
Answer: To respond with goodness gives the promised blessing expressed in Psalm 34:13-17 which is the temporal blessing of longevity and prosperity. But for Christians this also includes the eternal blessing of supernatural life. Such righteous behavior in the midst of persecution also assures that "the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer..." whereas the Lord will be against those of evil intent who hurt His righteous child.

1 Peter 3:13-17 ~ Christian suffering and Life in the Spirit
13 Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once, and righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. 19 In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20 who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the Ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21 This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

St. Peter's exposition in verses 13-22 focuses on these reasons for which Christians should rejoice:

  1. By his suffering and death, Christ, the righteous Son of God, saved the unrighteous (verse 18).
  2. By His resurrection Jesus received new life in the Spirit which He communicates to all who believe in Him through the Sacrament of Baptism, cleansing them from all sin (verses 18, 21).
  3. Just as Noah and his family were saved through water, so too are Christians saved through baptismal waters that have cleared their consciousness of the power of sin over their lives (verses 19-22).
  4. Therefore, Christians do not need to share the fear of sinners or be put to shame by the actions of sinners but should rejoice in suffering because of their hope in Christ who has ascended to the right hand of God with power over all heaven and earth (verses 13-14, 21-22).

The redemptive power of suffering has always been a teaching of the Church. St. Paul wrote: I rejoice in my sufferings. In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's sufferings (Col 1:24). We unite our sufferings to the suffering of Jesus as a pleasing sacrifice to God. This is another way we become co-workers with Christ in the salvation of souls, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:9 and as the Catechism teaches: "... Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and their sufferings. Then they fully become God's fellow workers' and co-workers for his kingdom" (CCC 307; also see 618 and 1508).

15b Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope ... This is one of the most frequently quoted verses from the letter. It eloquently states the mission of Christian witness that Peter urges the communities of the Church to accept. Christians must always be ready to give a defense or testimony of the Gospel which is their hope of salvation, even when confronted with persecution and suffering. The word "explanation" is translated from the Greek word apologia which can be used in a legal sense as a "defense" of one's position as in giving one's "testimony." It is where get the word "apologetics," the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. Early Christian writers who defended the Christian faith against critics and gave testimony of their faith to others were called "apologists." Is it the same word used in Luke 12:11-12 when Jesus told the disciples they will have to defend themselves to rulers/authorities. He said: "When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense [apologia] will be or about what you are to say. For the holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say." The same word is also used in Acts 22:1 when St. Paul gave a formal defense of his belief in Jesus Christ to the Jewish Sanhedrin and in Acts 25:16 when St. Paul gave a formal defense of his Christian beliefs to the Roman governor Felix and to King Agrippa of Judea. But in this verse St. Peter uses the word in a more general sense "to anyone who asks you ..."

Next St. Peter focuses on how one offers his Christian defense/testimony: 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. If you behave badly in presenting your defense, your bad conduct will reflect not only on all Christians but on Christ Himself, whereas your good conduct is credited to both Christ and His Church.

17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once, and righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.
By His suffering and death, Jesus Christ the righteous saved the unrighteous. By His resurrection, He received new life in the Spirit, which He now communicates to the faithful through the Sacrament of Baptism. In Christian Baptism, the believer dies to sin and is resurrected to new life in the Spirit. Christians do not need to fear but should rejoice in suffering in doing good for the sake of the Gospel, because their hope of salvation is in Christ and their lives are sanctified by the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.

How many opportunities do you have during the week to present your apologia of Christ your Lord and Savior? When those opportunities arise, remember to follow Jesus' advice. He told His disciples: "... do not worry about how or what your defense [apologia] will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say" (Lk 12:11b-12).

Jesus' death and descent into Sheol/Hades (the abode of the dead)
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once, and righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. 19 In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20 who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the Ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21 This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Verse 18 may be an ancient profession of faith in the early Church.
Question: What does the phrase "put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit" confirm about Christ?
Answer: The phrase confirms that Jesus truly died as a human being and was resurrected to new, transformed life (not revived or resuscitated) that was not bound by the restrictions or limitations of natural life.

Question: What does the Apostles' Creed teach about Jesus after He was laid in the tomb but prior to His resurrection? Also see Eph 4:8-10; Phil 2:10; Rev 1:18.
Answer: In the Apostles' Creed we profess: "He descended into Hell [Hades] on the third day he rose again."

Please note that the English word "hell" is sometimes used for both the hell of the damned and Hades, the grave/Sheol/the netherworld which causes confusion. In the Bible Sheol/Hades refers to the grave or abode of the dead and Jesus refers to the Hell of the damned as Gehenna. Like all human beings, upon the end of natural life, Jesus was buried and His spirit descended to the abode of the dead which was called in Hebrew "Sheol" and in Greek "Hades" and is sometimes translated as the "netherworld." CCC 633 says: "Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, hell' "Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek, because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into Abraham's bosom'... Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him."

According to St. Peter, those Jesus rescued who accepted His Gospel of salvation included those disobedient souls from the time of Noah who refused to accept salvation in the form of the Ark and perished in the Great Flood. The Hell of damnation, which Jesus called Gehenna, was created for Satan and his fallen angel-demons.(2) Sheol was created to receive the souls of both the righteous and sinners since the gates of Heaven were closed since the Fall of Adam and human beings had not had the chance to hear the Gospel that promised eternal life (CCC 536, 1026). See Jesus' description of Sheol in Luke 16:19-31.

Jesus' rescue of the souls in Sheol was prophesied by God through the prophet Hosea who wrote: Shall I deliver [ransom] them from the power of the nether world? Shall I redeem them from death? Where are your plagues, O death! Where is your sting, O nether world! (Hos 13:14b). St. Paul sites this same passage in 1 Cor 15:54 but he sites it as the ultimate victory of life over death in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day when Christ returns.

20 who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the Ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21 This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ ...
In verses 20-21 St. Peter compares the Great Flood and the salvation of Noah's family to baptism and writes that in God's divine plan the Flood actually prefigured the Christian baptism that they have received. He also clearly states in 3:21 that baptism is an instrument of grace that is necessary for salvation (see Jn 3:5; CCC 1257)
Question: How did the Great Flood prefigure Christian baptism? See CCC 845.
Answer: Noah and the members of his family were saved from God's divine judgment against a sinful world by being carried on the waters of the Flood just as the baptized Christian is saved by the sacramental sign of water and the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit who forgives the baptized believer's sins and saves him from divine judgment.

It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ...
Peter's point is that Christian baptism is not a cleansing of the body but of the soul, nor is it like the ritual purity rites that used water in the rituals of the old Sinai Covenant.

Question: How is Christian baptism not like the Old Covenant ritual purity rites that used water in a cleansing ritual? For example see Lev 15:11, 19-22; Num 19:7-8, 11-13.
Answer: The Old Covenant purity rites did not have the power to cleanse the person's soul of sin but only to cleanse them from ritual impurity, allowing them to attend liturgical worship.

This was why the chief priests and Pharisees told Pilate they could not enter the Roman Law Court or Praetorium because it they did they would become ritually defiled and unable to eat "the Passover" (Jn 18:28). They were referring to attending that morning's required liturgical worship service for the Feast of Unleavened Bread to offer their communion sacrifices to be eating during the day. If they had been referring to the Passover sacred meal (which according to the Synoptic Gospels occurred the night before), they could have ritually bathed and been declared ritually clean again at sundown when the sacred meal of the Passover victim began (Mishnah: Pesahim, 8:8E; Lev 11:24ff).

St. John the Baptist also used water as a ritual sign of cleansing. His baptisms were not for the forgiveness of sins but for repentance of sins in preparation for the coming of Christ. John's baptism was like the other ritual purity rites in that it only demonstrated the outward sign of a return to spiritual cleanliness, but Christian baptism effects a supernatural change in that the baptized person is baptized into the suffering and death of Christ (Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50; Rom 6:3) and reborn to a supernatural new life (Jn 3:3, 5).

The baptized Christian receives what was not possible under the rituals of the Old Covenant:

  1. He/she receives a new birth in the Spirit into the family of God (CCC 168, 1236, 1253-55, 1265-66)
  2. He/she becomes a member of the Body of Christ (CCC 537, 818, 871, 950, 985, 1003, 1267-70)
  3. He/she is forgiven all past sins (CCC 403, 405, 628, 977-80, 1262-66)
  4. He/she receives a consecration into the holy priesthood of believers (CCC 119, 1141, 1305, 1546, 1591)
  5. He/she receives a participation in the life of the Trinity (CCC 265)
  6. He/she is justified and sanctified (CCC 1987, 1992, 2020, 2813)
  7. He/she receives the hope of eternal salvation (CCC 1023, 2068)

The association of Christ's suffering with baptism may be prefigured in passages of the Old Testament Psalms where the suffering of the "Elect One" is described as a struggle in the waters of death (i.e., Ps 18:5-8, 17). St. Paul writes that Christians should connect baptism with the death of the old life and the birth of the new and with the death of the Old Covenant and the birth of the New Covenant in Christ (Rom 6:13; Eph 4:22; Titus 3:5).

Peter specifically points out that eight persons were saved from the Great Flood. Noah and his family members were symbolically "re-born" after the Flood into a new creation. In the significance of numbers in Scripture, eight came to be the number representing re-birth, re-generation and salvation.
Question: What other significant events in salvation history are associated with the number eight?
Answer: A few examples:

For more examples see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture".

22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
In St. Mark's Gospel he also affirmed that upon His Ascension to the Father that Jesus took His place at the "right hand of God": So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God (Mk 16:19).

St. Peter's intention in this passage, and indeed in his entire letter, is to validate the necessity of Christian baptism and to encourage the new baptized to have faith and hope in the saving power of Christ. He uses three examples in his conclusion of this passage to support his thesis:

  1. Christ's Resurrection
  2. Christ's Ascension
  3. His place at the right hand of God where Jesus has authority over angels, magistrates, and powers.

Among the four examples, the first and the second deal with Christ's exultation and the third and the fourth with His authority over heaven (angels) and earth (magistrates) and under the earth (demon powers).

Chapter 4

1 Peter 4:1-6 ~ Christian Restraint
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), 2 so as not to spend what remains of one's life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God. 3 For the time that has passed is sufficient for doing what the Gentiles like to do: living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not plunge into the same swamp of profligacy, and they vilify you; 5 but they will give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the Gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God.

St. Peter began speaking about suffering in 1:6 and 2:21 and now he returns to the subject of suffering from a human and divine perspective.

Suffering Viewed from a Human and Divine Perspective in 1 Peter
Human Perspective Divine Perspective
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)

Question: What promise does Peter make to unite one's physical suffering to the sufferings of Christ?
Answer: The willingness of a Christian to unite his/her physical suffering to the suffering of Christ equips the Christian with the power to conquer the sinful desires of the flesh.

Peter lists the sins in which the pagans indulged: living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry. The list of sins sounds disturbingly like those of many young adults with the "wanton idolatry" being their inclination to think of themselves as invincible and living only for self, making themselves their own gods/goddesses.
Question: But what is the downside of this immoral behavior? See 1 Pt 4:5; Jn 5:22-27; Acts 10:42 and 2 Tim 4:11.
Answer: Christ is the judge to whom those guilty of such sins must render an account of their lives when they come face to face with Jesus at the end of their earthly lives or when Christ returns in glory.

6 For this is why the Gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God.
These are the souls in Sheol/Hades that Peter wrote about in 3:19-20. Their suffering in Sheol purified them of their sins and therefore they were ready to be liberated by Christ who had also died for them. In describing the souls of the just dead in Sheol the writer of the Book of Wisdom says: They seemed, in view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are at peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble... (Wis 3:2-7). The chastisement "as gold in the furnace" is understood to be purification of sins by God's fiery love and the "time of their visitation" is understood by the Fathers of the Church and most Catholic scholars as the descent of Christ into Sheol/Hades to preach the Gospel and to rescue all souls who accepted Him as their Savior.

Concerning 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6 the Catechism teaches:

1 Peter 4:7-11 ~ The revelation of Christ is close so persevere in Christian charity
7 The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. 8 Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. 11 Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Many Christians at this time, including Peter, felt that the increased persecution that Christians were facing signaled that the time of Christ's Second Advent was near. 8 Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins is a maxim based on Proverbs 10:12 ~ Hatred stirs up disputes, but love covers all offenses and returns to Peter's continuing theme of mutual love.

Question: How does Peter advise the newly baptized Christians of these provinces to prepare for Christ's return in verses 7-11?
Answer: He advises them to be prepared for Christ's return:

Peter concludes with a doxology declaring God's eternal dominion in verse 11; it is a doxology he will repeat at the conclusion of his letter in 5:11 prior to his farewell.

1 Peter 4:12-19 ~ Advice to the Persecuted
12 Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. 16 But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. 17 For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the Gospel of God? 18 "And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?" 19 As a result, those who suffer in accord with God's will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.

St. Peter returns to the main theme of this part of his letter which is the trials Christians suffer unjustly because of their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior (see 1:6-7; 2:18-25; 3:13-17). He encourages the faithful who, through the Sacrament of Baptism, have died to sin through the sufferings of Christ (2 Cor 1:5, 7; Phil 3:10) that they might also be assured a share in His glory (1 Pt 1:11; 5:1; Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 4:17; Phil 3:11), therefore, they should not be ashamed by their suffering but should be happy in anticipation of the glory they give to God.

Verse 13 implies more than just following an example. Peter deepens the meaning of suffering for the sake of Christ by saying that Christians actually "share in" or have communion in Christ's sufferings (Col 1:24). He speaks of both a present and a future reality of rejoicing. We rejoice in our present condition through any suffering we experience from persecution because of our Christian beliefs, but we will experience an even greater cause for rejoicing when Christ returns so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly (verse 13).

In verse 14 Peter promises a blessing for those who suffer for Christ: If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. It is a promise that recalls what Jesus said at the end of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:11-12 ~ Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you. To be insulted for "the name of Christ" refers to the whole person of Jesus Christ and our belief in and obedience to everything He taught.

Next, Peter turns to the contrast between suffering for the sake of Christ and suffering as a result of temporal punishment for sins. There is no merit or glory for the sinner in suffering; there is only merit and glory for the righteous. Then Peter alludes to Isaiah 11:2 when he writes that the righteous who suffer are blessed because "the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon" them (verse 14). Isaiah wrote of the promised Messiah: On him will rest the spirit of the LORD, the spirit of wisdom and insight. It is a verse that points to the Messiah in His glory. Since the Christian's suffering for the sake of belief in Jesus is a participation in the sufferings of Christ, the same Spirit rests upon the suffering believer as the Spirit who rested upon the suffering Christ.

16 But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.
In verse 16 Peter uses the term "Christian" to identify those who are suffering. The word "Christian" is only found three times in the New Testament. It was first used by the community of believers in Antioch, Syria to identify themselves as belonging to Christ in Acts 11:26. It was the faith community of Sts. Paul and Barnabas. The word "Christian" was also used by King Agrippa for Jesus' followers in Acts 26:28 and by St. Peter in this passage. Finally, St. Peter assures Christians that they must not be ashamed when others degrade them for their faith in Jesus Christ because when baptized Christians receive a share of the sufferings of Christ (2 Cor 1:5, 7; Phil 3:10) they are also assured a share in His glory (Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 4:17; Phil 3:11; 1 Pt 1:11; 5:1). Their very suffering when united to Christ's suffering brings glory to God.

17 For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the Gospel of God? 18 "And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?" 19 As a result, those who suffer in accord with God's will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.
Perhaps Peter sees the growing persecution of Christians as a form of God's judgment which begins with the "household of God" that is the Church. He asks the question: if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the Gospel of God? and then he quotes from Proverbs 11:31 LXX: 18 "And if the righteous one is barely saved, where the godless and the sinner appear?" In other words, if the righteous barely escape the wrath of God's divine judgment what hope is there for the sinner who persists in doing evil? Jesus taught: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few" (Mt 7:13-14).

Chapter 5: St. Peter's Advice to the Local Church Shepherds and the Community

1 Peter 5:1-4 ~ Advice to the Presbyters
1 So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. 2 Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 3Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Now St. Peter turns to the presbyters or elders who are the shepherds of the local churches in each of the Roman provinces. They are the officially appointed leaders and teachers of the Christian communities. Later this title came to be translated as "priest." He appeals to them as a fellow presbyter/priest. They have been anointed as shepherds to "tend the flock of God." Presbyter is a Greek word that identified a member of a group of priests who advised the bishop. Their rank was above that of deacons but inferior to bishops (see 1 Tim 5:17-18; Titus 1:5-8; Jam 5:14). Together they formed the presbytery, which under a bishop was the governing body of a community. A presbyter was commissioned by a bishop to teach, celebrate Mass, and baptize.
Question: How does Peter tell New Covenant shepherds to lead God's flock and why?
Answer:

  1. They must lead the sheep not by force or for profit but with eager willingness in service to God.
  2. They must not be overbearing but must serve as good examples.
  3. If they behave rightly in their obligations, they will be rewarded by the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, when He returns.

Concerning Peter's warning for priests not to be domineering to the community, Jesus preached on this same human failing in Matthew 20:25-28 and gave them the example of humility of service when He washed the Apostles feet at the Last Supper (Jn 13:4-5, 12-17).

1 Peter 5:5-11 ~ Advice to the Community
5 Likewise, you younger members, be subject to the presbyters. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: "God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble." 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 8 Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. 10 The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. 11 To him be dominion forever. Amen.

Next Peter turns his attention to the members of the community, especially the "younger members" in Christ who are the newly baptized. In his closing exhortation, St. Peter assures the newly baptized Christians and others listening to his letter that God's relationship with the Christian is very personal and available for He is always ready to respond to the needs of His children.

Question: What is Peter's advice to them and what reward does he promise for good behavior in verses 5-7?
Answer:

  1. They must obey their presbyters.
  2. They must act with humility to one another.
  3. They must cast all their worries upon God who cares for them.
  4. They are promised that God will exalt them at the proper time, which is the Last Judgment.

5 Likewise, you younger members, be subject to the presbyters. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: "God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble." In verse 5 Peter supports his calls for humility by quoting from Proverbs 3:34 LXX: God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble. He encourages their humility of spirit by reminding them this has consistently been a teaching for the people of God. Jesus made a similar promise to His disciples when He said: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Mt 23:12). And in the Virgin Mary's canticle of praise to God she gave the same message: He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly (Lk 1:51-52).

Since the blessing of God is upon those who humble themselves, Peter calls all Christians to embrace the virtue of humility: 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. The phrase "mighty hand of God" recalls the Exodus liberation as Moses reminded the children of Israel: We were once slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand" (Dt 6:21). Peter's point is just as God delivered His people in the past, so will He continue to deliver those who humble themselves before him. But he also probably had Christ's Second Coming in mind and so his message is also that no matter what sufferings they may face in this life, Christians can have the confidence that God will deliver them and will raise them up when Christ returns, just as He delivered his Son and raised Him up to glory.

7 Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. St. Peter is probably adapting Psalm 55:23 to his audience: Cast your care upon the LORD, who will give you support. God will never allow the righteous to stumble. St. Paul gave the same advice to the Christians of Philippi when he wrote: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Phil 4:6).

8 Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.
To remain alert and watchful is a command Jesus gave His disciples when He told them: Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come (Mt 24:42).
The Greek word "devil" means "accuser." He tempts every human being to sin and is ready to accuse every human being of sin in hopes of bringing about our condemnation.

Question: At what other time was sin/the devil personified as prowling or crouching in wait to attack sinners and what is the warning? See Gen 4:1-7.
Answer: When Cain was angry because God had accepted the blood sacrifice of Abel but not Cain's grain offering, God warned him that his anger was leaving him open to the devil waiting to draw him into sin. Our unrighteous attitude and unhealthy desires make us susceptible to the temptation to sin.

"Devil" is from the Greek word for the "Accuser" while "Satan" is from the Hebrew; both words are usually preceded by the definitive article "the." Peter identifies Satan as being the cause of Christian persecution. He exhorts the newly baptized to resist the temptations of the devil by being steadfast in their faith and to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Then he gives them a final blessing followed by a doxology: 10 The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. 11 To him be dominion forever. Amen. He assures them that it is God who has chosen them by divine election and because He has chosen them, He will not desert them but will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. They should be strong and have faith because the world has no power over God; God is all powerful and His dominion is forever.

In Jesus' death on the cross, His ministry seemed to end in the victory of His enemies; however, there was a surprise twist to the ending! In His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death. If the "hour" of His passion and sacrificial death represented the confrontation of Jesus and Satan, "the ruler of this world" (Jn 12:31; 14:30), then in His victory over death, Jesus was victorious over Satan! The fact that Jesus stands justified before the throne of God (Rev 5:4-6) means that Satan has been judged and condemned and has lost a great extent of his power over the world (see CCC 388 and 1433). In the very act of Jesus' sacrificial death, Satan's dominion over the world is no longer preeminent. Although he still has the power to do evil, Satan's authority is now limited and he has no power over those who are united to Christ in baptism and the Eucharist (Heb 2:14). Satan is what St. Augustine described as "a mean dog on a short chain." St. Augustine’s point is that as long as we avoid coming within the reach of that "chain" of sin, Satan has no power over us. God the Holy Spirit will reveal that Jesus' death will result in the final sentence on Satan that was prophesied Genesis: the "crushing of the head" = mortal blow to Satan (Gen 3:15). But, even though Satan is defeated, he is still a threat: "For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground" (Eph 6:12-13). Hold your ground and call upon the power of the Holy Spirit to defend you!

1 Peter 5:12-14 ~ Last Words and Farewell blessing
12 I write to you this briefly through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it. 13 The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Peter's secretary Silvanus, who has recorded Peter's letter, is believed to be the same Silvanus (Silvanus is the Latinization of the Hebrew name Silas in Hebrew) who knew Peter in Jerusalem and was an important member of the Jerusalem Christian community:

"Babylon" in verse 13 is the code name for Rome here and in the Book of Revelation (Rev 14:8; 17:5; 18:2). At this time Babylon was a ruined city with no influence in the world and the once great city was a symbol of pagan corruption. The title "chosen one" is in the feminine (ekklesia) and does not refer to Peter but to the Christian community in Rome where Peter serves as Bishop of Rome and Christ's Vicar of the universal Church. The Fathers of the Church testified that the Mark referred to affectionately by Peter as "my son" is John Mark/Marcus the son of Jewess Mary of Jerusalem and a Roman father (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13 and 15:37-39). He was a boy/teen at the time of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, a cousin of the disciple Joseph Barnabas, (Col 4:10) and became is mentioned as a co-worker with St. Paul in Philemon 24 (also see 2 Tim 4:11). According to the Church Fathers, John-Mark served as St. Peter's secretary in Rome and recorded Peter's recollection of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Mark before going on the Alexandria, Egypt where he was the first Christian Bishop of the Church in Alexandria.

14 Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
Greeting with a kiss was a Jewish custom (Gen 33:4; Lk 15:20) that was continued by Christians as a sign of their affection as brothers and sisters in the faith (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20). Our "greeting of peace" in the Mass was original a "kiss of peace" as described by St. Justin Martyr: "On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place... Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves... and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments., so as to obtain eternal salvation. When the prayers are concluded, we exchange the kiss" (c. 155 St. Justin's explanation of the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist to the Emperor Antonius Pius; Apologiae 1.65-67). It is with this final appeal to love that St. Peter closes his letter to the newly baptized Christians and their faith communities in the five Roman Provinces of Asia Minor.

Question for reflection or group discussion:
Peter said: Always be ready to give an explanation [apologetikos] to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope ... This is the first mention of Christian apologetics. The Greek word can also be translated "defense" and refers to "the science that aims to explain and justify religious doctrine. It shows the reasonableness of such doctrine in the face of the objections offered by those who refuse to accept any religion, especially Christianity and more particularly Roman Catholicism" (Modern Catholic Dictionary, "Apologetics," page 25). Are you prepared to defend your Christian beliefs and more specifically your Catholic faith? You should have a plan in the event you are called upon to explain your beliefs, for example the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. How would you begin and what are the major points of your "explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" of eternal salvation?

Endnotes:
1. In the ritual of blood for the liturgical worship services the atoning blood was presented with three different ways:

2. Jesus refers to the Hell of the damned as "Gehenna" in Mt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Lk 12:5. He refers to Sheol or the "abode of the dead" by the Greek word "Hades" in Mt 11:13; 6:18; Lk 10:15; 16:23 (story of Lazarus and the Rich man); Rev 1:18; 6:8; 20:13 and 14 (where Sheol/Hades is finally destroyed in the Last Judgment). St. James refers to Gehenna/Hell of the damned in Jam 3:6 and in 2 Pt 2:4 Peter refers to the deepest part of Gehenna as Tartaroo/Tartarus where the fallen angels reside until the Last Judgement.

Catechism references for 1 Peter chapters 3-5:
Chapter 3 ~
3:1-7 (CCC 2204-06); 3:9 (CCC 1669); 3:18-19 (CCC 632); 3:20-21 (CCC 845); 3:20 (CCC 1219); 3:21 (CCC 128, 1794, 1994)
Chapter 4 ~
4:6 (CCC 634); 4:7 (CCC 670, 1806); 4:8 (CCC 1434); 4:14 (CCC 693); 4:17 (CCC 672)
Chapter 5 ~
5:3 (CCC 892, 1551); 5:4 (CCC 754); 5:7 (CCC 322); 5:8 (CCC 409, 2849)

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