In view of the present condition of this country, it would be beneficial to reflect on the themes brought out in the first letter of the apostle Peter.
Sacrifice and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
The major theme of Peter’s first letter is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross of Calvary and His resurrection. This is the foundation of the Christian religion.
The foundation of any structure is most important. In fact, if a fault is found with the foundation, the whole building is in jeopardy. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is the foundation of our hope and faith. It is so important that both the redeemed as well as the angels will study this subject throughout eternity. Peter wrote, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2). You are only a part of the elect if you have been sprinkled by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In verse 3 Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Verse 11: “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them [the Old Testament prophets] was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
The theme is repeated again in verses 18–20: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”
Before creation, the Father and the Son knew not only what Satan (Lucifer) was going to do, but also that Adam and Eve would fall. One might wonder what would have happened if God, looking down through the passage of time and seeing the poor choice Lucifer would make, decided not to create him? What if in seeing the mistake that Adam and Eve would make, they were not created?
Nobody would ever have known about it except God. If that were the case there would not have been freedom of choice, because anybody foreseen to make the wrong choice, would not be in existence.
In the first few pages of The Desire of Ages, Ellen White said that from eternity, the Father and Son saw the rebellion of Satan and the fall of man; and not only that, they saw what would be necessary in order for fallen man to be saved. If you are saved, someday you will get to study until you fully understand that a God who was infinite in wisdom, and infinite in power, could not find any way to redeem a fallen race except by the sacrifice of His Son (The Desire of Ages, 22).
The Father knew ahead of time the outcome. God’s dear Son knew every detail of His life before He ever came to this world as a man. He knew He would be rejected by most of the people, spit on and flogged, and finally be crucified. He knew that the majority of those He came to save would not accept Him as their Saviour. Even with this intimate knowledge, the plan did not change and went ahead.
In verse 20, Peter said that before the foundation of the world, before the world was ever created, Christ was ordained to save fallen man (see 1 Peter 1:20). It is awesome to think about. This subject is repeated throughout his book. In Chapter 2 verse 21 it says, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” and, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (verse 24).
I don’t understand it; I cannot explain it; but the Bible says it is by His stripes, His wounds, that I am healed. That is something to meditate on and try to understand. In 1 Peter 3:18 he says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but being made alive by the Spirit.”
You would think Peter had said enough about this theme, but he is still not done. In chapter 4, verse 1 he says again, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” I have studied this verse for decades and I still cannot explain it. In chapter 4 verse 13 he says, “But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
In the last chapter of the book, chapter 5, verse 1, Peter says, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness (I saw) of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: …” Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection is the foundation of the Christian religion. Peter talked about it. He wrote about it, taught about it, and preached it for the rest of his life.
The Holy Spirit
Peter writes about the Holy Spirit in his first letter. In 1 Peter 1:2 he says, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of [or by] the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
In this verse sanctification and obedience are connected with the Holy Spirit. Verse 12 says, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they [the old testament prophets] were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”
Peter says the preaching of the gospel is by the Spirit. The writing out of the prophecies of Christ was by the Holy Spirit as he indicates in verse 11, and the preaching of the gospel to you is by the Holy Spirit. But he has a lot more to say about the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 1:22 says, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” We can obey the truth only through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul agrees with this truth.
“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory (the Holy Spirit) and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:14).
The third major theme in 1st Peter is love. We usually think of the apostle John as being the apostle that dwells most fully upon love, but Peter also makes it a major theme of his letter. In 1 Peter 1:22, he talks about it twice. It says, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” That is a command. We are commanded to love one another fervently with a pure heart.
Another command says, “… love the brotherhood …” (1 Peter 2:17). In 1 Peter 3:8, Peter uses some really strong language. He says, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.”
In chapter 4 verse 8 Peter gets stronger than previously: “… above all things (this is more important than anything else) have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ ” Is there anybody who does not have a multitude of sins that need to be covered?
Remember the divine rule. Jesus says, As you do to others, it will be done to you (see Luke 6:38, last part).
If I want my sins to be covered, I should be willing to do the same when I find out about other people’s sins and not broadcast them to the world or to the church. Love covers. That is something to think through. This does not apply to those things that need to be made right.
The Bible says that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:24). Our God does not want to publicize our sins. He would like to cover them up and later blot them out. If that is God’s intention with our sins, then it would be good to consider what we should do with other people’s sins when they come to our notice.
There are people who claim Peter as their spiritual father and talk about him as though he is the head of the church while being out of harmony with his writings.
Submission and Obedience
“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2). Obedience means that you are subject to somebody or something like a law.
Verse 14: “… as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” Obedience means submission, to somebody or something.
In chapter 2 Peter refers to the people that have not learned this and how they are going to stumble and be lost. He says, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Peter 2:7, 8).
They stumble because they are disobedient. Then in verse 13 he gets very direct in his counsel on this subject: “Therefore submit …” I want to tell you, friends, submission is one of the ugliest words in the English language for the population in the United States today. We have millions of people that refuse to submit. They don’t submit to their parents. They don’t submit to the government. They don’t submit to anything. They are rebels, but, no rebel will be in the kingdom of heaven. Peter says, “… submit yourselves to every ordinance …” In other words, every law. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of men.
However, some say that the government is wicked, but read the history of the Roman Empire. It was one of the most wicked governments up to that time with some believing that it was the most wicked government that has ever existed in all time. In the command to submit, Peter was not making reference to a righteous government but to an evil government and he said, “… submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (verses 13, 14).
Nobody who is stirring up trouble for the government is in harmony with 1 Peter 2:13–17. Such are in direct violation of the word of God. That is not a condition in which to be found in the day of judgment.
This admonition also applies in the workplace where people have supervisors. Supervisors are often the most unpopular people in the business because nobody wants to submit to their leading. We live in an age where people only want to do what they want to do, when they want to do it, the way they want to without anybody telling them what to do. This is not just in the world, but in the church, and also the home. Peter says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully” (verses 18, 19).
Is it possible that you could suffer wrongfully in the workplace because of a supervisor that is not understanding but he is still your supervisor?
Peter touches on some very unpopular subjects, particularly in chapter 3, verse 1: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands …” This is so unpopular today that I am scared to say anything about it other than read it from the Bible, and then you can argue with Him.
Verses 5 and 6 continue, “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”
Some people are ready to throw the preacher out just for reading a text like that, but it is in the Bible. Peter wrote it. We all must learn the lesson of submission. No one is excluded. If we fail to learn this lesson, we will never be in the kingdom of heaven.
Now we come to another one that is just as sensitive as the one we just read, because Peter is not done yet. 1 Peter 5:5: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders …” Oh, no, somebody says, You don’t know how bad my parents are. I may not, but it is in the Bible. But now, notice what it says in the last part of the verse. “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility … .” All, even if you are ninety years old should be submissive to each other.
Friend, the Christian world has not learned submission. That is why we have the troubles we have today. We have not learned it in our homes or even in the church. Everyone wants to do what is right in their own eyes and not be subject to anyone else. Everything is upside down.
This has to do with the government of God and in His government there is order. Do you know that certain angels are appointed to be over other angels? When Jesus was crucified on the cross, Ellen White says that the weakest angel could have delivered Him instantly, and they would have liked to. And there were no doubt millions of them around watching, but they didn’t move. They didn’t do anything to deliver Christ from the cross. Ellen White tells us that a commanding angel told them, No. You are not to interfere in anything that you see, and when the angels are told by the commanding angel not to interfere, they obey.
Angels understand the lesson of submission, and unless we learn that lesson we will never be fit for the kingdom of heaven.
There can never be order unless people have learned submission. That is why Peter deals so much with submission, because unless people have learned that, you cannot have order. Without order there is only chaos.
In 1 Peter 2:5, he says, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Peter here is talking about Christians scattered over a large territory. He says, you are built up a spiritual house. A house is an establishment where members of family live together and they have family government.
Although ideally a family home has government, unfortunately today, there are many that do not have much order in their family. The result is often chaos.
Peter talks about this need for order again in verse 9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation …” A nation is a group of people who are organized under a single government. He says, You are a holy nation. That has to do with order, order in the church.
Concerning Christ, Peter wrote, “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (chapter 3:22). Notice there is order in the universe and every created thing is subject to Jesus Christ.
In chapter 5, verse 2 Peter talks to pastors or elders in the church and he tells them, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers [managers], not by constraint, but willingly” (literal translation).
There are people who do not believe in the necessity of church organization. In Ellen White’s day some fought organization for almost twenty years. James White fought for organization almost single-handedly while others thought that to be organized would make them become like Babylon.
If there is no one to oversee a church, ministry, school, or family, there will be no order. Without organization nothing will get done. However, you can’t have an overseer if people are not willing to be overseen.
The New Testament church had elders who were overseers of the work. These overseers were not dictators. Peter said in verse 3, “Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” They may be managers but never to have a dictatorial spirit. Fathers and mothers want their children to obey them because of love and respect and trust and not because they are afraid of punishment. When fear is the reason for obedience the home is very unhappy.
Another major theme in 1 Peter is the everlasting inheritance of the people who are going to be saved and Peter has some wonderful descriptions of it in this little letter where he gives short lists of instruction and counsel to Christians on different subjects. Remember, these instructions are from an inspired apostle to individual Christians about how to live a holy life:
- Holiness (1 Peter 1:13–18).
- Results of being born again (1 Peter 1:22, 23).
- What to discard from your life (1 Peter 2:1, 2).
- What to do in relation to others (1 Peter 2:17).
- Call for unity 1 Peter 3:8–11).
- Appeal for loving Christian service (1 Peter 4:7–11).
- Description of the Christian struggle (1 Peter 5:6–9).
Peter packed a lot into this little letter. Those desiring to go to the kingdom of heaven would be wise to heed the instruction given and order their lives in harmony with what Peter wrote.
In mercy, God has given us plain, clear instruction about how we should live, and how we should relate to one another, both in the church and in the world. God will deliver us from the rebellious spirit that we see in the atmosphere all around today. He will help us to develop a submissive spirit so that we can obey His law and His leading and guiding in our lives. God will also help us to learn the lesson of living in harmony and unity and experience a fervent love for each other if we ask Him. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work a miracle in you.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.