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New Testament Survey
Lesson Eighteen

I Peter

The New Testament to this point has said very little concerning the relationship between Christianity and the Roman government.  The Gospels have very few political references and those that are there refer to the Herod's rather than the imperial system.  The only exception is when Jesus told them to give to Caesar those things that belong to Caesar, (Mt.22:21).  In the book of Acts the contacts between Christianity and Roman officials is treated as favourable and we get the impression that such contacts were few.  Paul, in his writings, does not discuss political theory, but instructs Christians to be subject to the powers that are over them because those powers are ordained of God.

The silence regarding political relations is explainable.  The political relationship under a totalitarian government was important.  The lack of comment is explained by the fact that Christianity is primarily spiritual and not political.  Jesus had said to Pilate His kingdom was not of this world, so His servants did not fight (Jn.18:36).  The teachings of Jesus and the Apostles had political consequences, but they were not revolutionaries nor political agitators.

Another reason for the silence is that Christianity was considered a legitimate religion because it was seen as a branch of Judaism.  It was therefore protected by the state. The policy of Rome was tolerance unless the religious observance conflicted with the claims of the state.  They could be ignored as long as they did not cause any disturbance.

Christians who did on occasion come into contact with Rome seemed to leave a favourable impression upon Roman officials.  Paul on at least two occasions demand his rights as a Roman citizen, (Acts 15:36-39; 22:24-29).  He was also able to say that he had never been involved in subversive activities or insurrection, (Acts 24:12).  The church had simply peacefully penetrated society, with the gospel.

The drawing to a close of the first century saw a change in the situation.  Christianity had become separate from Judaism and were now seen as a different religious group. Christians had an insistent belief in the invisible God and the resurrection of Christ.  This belief was viewed with suspicion and contempt.  They also spoke of coming judgment and the destruction of the present world order.   Misunderstanding and hatred were created as a result.  The citizens of the city of Rome reacted against the Christians.  They took advantage of this popular dislike to Christians and Nero's accusations added to the hatred.  The end of the Pastoral Epistles show us that there was a change in Roman policy from tolerance to hostility.

The situation placed the Christians in a difficult position. There were fearful of what the future held for them.  They could not become an organized resistance movement.  Such action would violate their principle of obedience to the government.  It would give place for further charges against them.  They did not know if they would become extinct.  Perhaps the cruelties of Nero would spread out into the provinces.  They were seeking for answers from their leaders.

The book of 1 Peter was an answer to this situation especially as it affected the churches in northern Asia Minor, in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.  The provinces of Pontus and Cappadocia are not listed in Acts as among those that were evangelized by Paul.  He attempted to go into Bithynia but was forbidden to do it (Acts 16:7).  Galatia and Asia were evangelized by Paul, but the way the provinces are listed in Peter we get the impression he was writing to those Christians in the northern sections.   

The epistle is written to the elect of the dispersion.  The salutation of 1 Peter together with the references to the Gentiles gives the impression that the elect were converts from the Dispersion and were mainly Jewish in character.  It is very possible to look at these terms figuratively or literally.  Gentiles had come to mean not only non-Jewish in the racial sense but also in the spiritual sense.  In Jewish thinking a Gentile was person who did not know the true God.  When Christianity took on the Jewish phraseology "Gentile" became the equivalent of the modern term "heathen" or "pagan".  In verse 14 of chapter one Peter tells them to set their hope on Christ as children of obedience and not to be formed after their former lusts and time of ignorance, (1:14)  Jews were will versed in the Scriptures so would not likely be called ignorant.  He also spoke of vain manner of life from their fathers (1:18), they had been called out of darkness (2:9) and that they had wrought the desire of the Gentiles in lasciviousness, lusts, abominable idolatries etc. (4:3).  The reference to idolatries would require the meaning of Gentiles.  The churches most likely contained a large number of Jews and proselytes but there were many Gentiles as well.

Persecution was casting its shadow over them, and provided the occasion for this letter.  Suffering is an important part of the letter, it is mentioned at least sixteen times. They have manifold trials (1:6), suffering wrongfully (2:19), suffered for righteousness sake (3:14), for doing right (3:17).

There were darker days ahead as a fiery trial was coming upon them. They would be considered murderers and evil doers.  They were not to be ashamed if they suffered as Christians (4:12-16).  They would not be alone in their suffering, Christians throughout the world would suffer as well, (5:9). Trials must be borne bravely. The letter then was a warning and an encouragement in the face of the coming emergency.

1. There are 5 chapters in the book with 105 verses.

2. The epistle was written by the Apostle Peter.  He, like his fellow disciples was a Galilean fisherman.  His name was Simon which meant reed, and he was given the name Peter, which meant rock, by Jesus.  He is the best known of the disciples, was a natural leader and the spokesman for them on several occasions.  He was impulsive, vacillating, selfish, hasty, and quick in recoil.  He denied Jesus but not because he held premeditated malice but he panicked and then later repented with bitter tears.  He had a deep loyalty to Jesus.  He was part of the inner circle of Jesus disciples and Jesus gave him special attention several times.

Both external evidence (Gal.2:8) and internal evidence (1Pet.1:1) show that he was the author.  The author of this book had an intimate knowledge of the life of Christ and His teachings (5:5 with Jn.13:3-5;5:2 with Jn.21:14-17).  He enlarges on the sufferings of Christ as an eyewitness (5:1; 3:18;4:1) and features the person of Christ in relationship to  these sufferings (2:19-24;4:13).  There is similarity between Peter's speeches in Acts and his words in the epistle (Acts 2:32-36;10:34,41 with 1 Pet.1:17).

Peter was recognized as the author of this epistle by the early church universally.  Polycarp quotes it by name in Against Heresies IV:9,2; IV:25,5; V:7,2).  The evidence for his authorship is abundant and not seriously questioned by competent scholarship.

3. The date of writing is thought to be A.D. 65.  It could have been written two or three years earlier but A.D. 65 is the most probable date.   

4. 1 Peter 5:13 suggest that it was written from Babylon.  The question arises as to what is meant by Babylon.  There are three possibilities for the location of Babylon.

a. The historical Babylon in Mesopotamia.  It contained a Jewish settlement until later in the Christian era, and Peter could have founded the church there.  There is no evidence that Peter was ever in this area.  However a number of commentators favour his residence there.

Those who hold to this view rather than Rome feel that Babylon was not used in a figurative sense for Rome until after the Book of Revelation. Peter's writings are not "apocalyptic" but plain speech so he would not use the mystical name for Rome.  In addition there is no concrete evidence that Peter was ever at Rome.     

b. There was a town in Egypt named Babylon and it is possible he wrote from there.  There is no tradition or historical evidence that Peter was ever in Egypt. The town is not of sufficient importance to justify his attention.

c. Babylon was the mystical name for Rome, by which the Christians applied to it all the evil connotations that had been associated with Babylon of Mesopotamia.  It allowed them to give expression to their feelings without being detected.

Those who favour this suggest that John Mark, who was with Peter when he wrote this epistle was in Rome at the time of Paul's imprisonment (Col.4:10).  The provinces are named in order which suggests the messenger made the circuit terminating in west rather than the east.  If the messenger were making his way back to the source of the letter, Rome rather than Babylon would be a more logical end to his travels.

The problem with that conclusion is the lack of evidence that Peter was ever in Rome.  There is patristic evidence that Peter did end his life there.  This would not need to imply that Peter founded the work there or that he ministered there for any length of time.  Neither Acts nor Romans gives any hint that Peter had been in Rome prior to A.D. 60.  If he did write from Rome, he was most likely paying a casual visit to the city in the same manner as he had to Corinth earlier.


The theme of the book is that in spite of persecution there is living hope and ultimate triumph in Christ.


Christ is revealed as the One who was resurrected, is coming, who suffered, the chief corner stone who was rejected and the chief shepherd.

Key Words

The key words are suffering[16], righteous(ness,ly),and glory(ify.

Key Verse

1 Pet.4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoke of, but on your part He is glorified.


1. It was written to encourage them in the time of suffering they were enduring.

2. Related to encouragement was the need to prepare them for the persecution that was about to be unleased against the church.

3. He wrote to remind them that they were recipients of the gospel that the prophets foretold and desired to enter into.

4. He reminded them of their position in Christ as being born again, and set as lively stones in the building of God.

5. He also wrote to instruct them concerning their responsibilities to properly conduct themselves in the world and church.

6. He gave this epistle to remind them that Christ who had suffered cared for them in their present suffering.


Events and Characters

1. Peter begins by reminding us that we have been born to an incorruptible inheritance, even though for the present time there is suffering.  The trial is necessary as purification of our faith.  Our faith is tried that it may prove to be to the glory of God and the coming of the Lord. At that time we will receive the reward of salvation, a salvation the prophets saw, including the sufferings of Christ, and desired to participate in. Therefore, we are to be sober and in hope being obedient in our lifestyle.  Holiness is a part of our life because we have been redeemed from the former corruptible things.  We are to lay aside all malice and guile and such like, desiring the milk of the word that we may grow.  We are His building, lively stones, built in line with the chief cornerstone. The corner stone had been rejected but is now our guide and anchor. Therefore, we are to turn against those things that war against the spiritual nature and have an honest lifestyle that is glorifying to God. This includes being in subjection to civil government, which will silence foolish men who speak in ignorance.  We are to honour all kinds of people whether government, or our brothers.  Employees are to be submitted to employers.  When we suffer let it be for being a Christian not for wrong doing.  Then we will be following the example of Christ, who left ultimate judgment to God.  

2. Wives are to respect and submit to their husbands so that the unbelieving husband can be won by their lifestyle.  The proper adornment is in spirit rather than the outward.  Husbands are to honour their wives and thus preserve their relationship with God.  Love for one another is to be evident and not returning of evil for evil.  God watches over the righteous and hears their prayers. No real harm can come to you, but if you suffer for righteousness rejoice and be not troubled in heart.  Be ready to answer for your faith to all that ask.  Christ suffered unjustly but He brought us to God. He preached to us bound in the prison of sin. He is now on the throne of authority.

3. Since He suffered for us we must have the same attitude. Suffering in the flesh helps to cure our tendency to sin.  We at one time walked in all kinds of sin. Our former friends think we are crazy because we have left that lifestyle, so they speak evil of us. The gospel is preached to those who are dead in sins so that they might live by the Spirit of God and they will be judged.  Those who have received the gospel are to walk in life and minister the gift to others and good stewards of God's grace.  The fiery trial is not a strange thing but makes us partakers of Christ's sufferings.  We are not to suffer as an evil doer but rejoice if we suffer as a Christian and glorify God in it.  It is important that we commit the keeping of our souls to God who is faithful.

4. Those who have been called to leadership are to do so willingly and feed the people of God, while being examples to those they lead. When Christ comes faithful leaders will be rewarded.  Humility is important because God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud.  He cares for you in you present circumstance.  The devil is trying to rob you and devour you so be vigilant that in all that comes against you he does not gain a foothold.  God has, by grace, called us to eternal glory and will by that grace make us complete in Him.

Lessons to Remember

1. We have been born to an incorruptible inheritance, through grace.

2. Whatever we face in this life we are kept by the power of God.

3. Suffering is a part of the Christian life and identifies us with the sufferings of Christ.

4. In suffering we are to be sure that it is for righteousness not justly because of our own evil doing.

5. It is important to put away all envy, malice, deceitfulness and hypocrisy and desire to grow in God.

6. We are His special chosen people to glorify His name in the earth.

7. We can honour His name by submitting to the governmental authorities over us.

8. We must endeavour to maintain a proper relationship to our spouse and/or other people around us.

9. If we are in leadership we must be more concerned with those under us than for ourselves.

10. Humility is essential if we are to receive the grace of God, and we are to humble ourselves, not expect Him to do it.

11. He cares for us so we can rest in His love and turn our cares to Him.


I. Suffering in Relation to Salvation     1:1  -  12

II. Suffering in Relation to Holiness    1:13 -  :22

    A. Call to Holiness, Love, Growth    1:13 -2:10
    B. Our Conduct as Strangers, Citizens, Employees    2:11  -  20
    C. Our Example    2:21  -  25
    D. Husbands and Wives    3:1  -  7
    E. Innocent Sufferers        3:8  -  22

III. New and Old Life Contrasted    4:1  -  11

IV. Partaking of Christ Sufferings    4:12  -  19

V. Exhortations in View of the Lord's Return    5:1  -  14

 Outline (Alternative)

I.  Introduction    1:1  -  2

II. Character of Salvation: Preservation    1:3  -  12
III. The Claims of Salvation: Holiness    1:13- 2:10

    A. Personal: "your souls"    1:13  -  21
    B. Social: "the brethren"    1:22  -  25
    C. Ecclesiastical: "a spiritual house"    2:1  -  10

IV. The Conduct of the Saved    2:1 - 3:12

    A. Toward the World     2:11  -  12
    B. Toward the State    2:13  -  17
    C. Toward the Household    2:18 -  3:7
    D. Summary    3:8  -  12

V. The Confidence of the Saved    3:13- 4:11

    A. Confidence of Defence        3:13  -  22
    B. Confidence in Conduct        4:1  -  6
    C. Confidence in Ministry        4:7  -  11

VI. The Counsel for the Saved    4:12 -5:11

    A. For Endurance of Suffering    4:12  -  19
    B. For Ministry under Suffering    5:1  -  11

VII. Concluding Salutations    5:12  -  14



The later part of the first century was beset with heresies and divisions.  There was a need for constant vigilance to keep the Christian faith pure.
The coming of false doctrines was not new nor was it a surprise. There had been the Judaizing controversy, which began at Antioch and dogged Paul throughout his ministry.  It was a preview of the many other heresies that have been in the church during it's existence.  The resurrection had been denied (1 Cor.15:12), which struck at the heart of the Christian faith.  He had warned the elders of Ephesus that  wolves would come in not sparing the flock and even from among themselves would men arise, speaking perverse things and drawing away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:29,30).  Paul stressed doctrinal correctness to Timothy and Titus.  He predicted that there would be those who departed form the faith and followed seducing spirits and demonic doctrines (1 Tim.4;1).  He also warned that churches would not continue in sound doctrine, but would bring in teachers with itching ears that would turn them from the truth (2 Tim.4:4).

2 Peter is one of five short epistles (1,2,3, John and Jude being the others) that was written to deal with these problems within the church.  They did not deal with heresies and divisions only.  They use a positive approach rather than a negative one.  They all; however, were flavoured with the dangers of their times.  These heresies threatened the church, by the subtle infiltration of pagan philosophy, more than the direct attacks of persecution.

It is questionable if the errors these epistles deal with can be identified with those with which the writings of the church fathers deal with. Docetism is seen in the writings of John.  This heresy held that Jesus was not historical, but a phantom that appeared in human form and then disappeared.  These heresies may have developed at a later time but the seeds of them were in the New Testament times. The errors were seen and the trends observed at that early time.  Error, is like human nature, it does not change very much over the centuries.  The names may change, but the deception is constant.

The heretics were magnifying knowledge as the basis for their superiority.  Peter shows that the answer to false knowledge is true knowledge.  His emphasis in this epistle, was not on hope or trial as in the first one, but on growth in true knowledge.  The Lord's return in prominent in this epistle.

1. 2 Peter has 3 chapters made up of a total of 61 verses.

2. The authenticity and authorship of this epistle is questioned. It is regarded as perhaps the most controversial epistle of the New Testament.  The external evidence is less than for that of the traditional authorship of any other book in the New Testament.

There is a difference of vocabulary and style between first and second Peter.  Second Peter has a more laboured and awkward Greek. It is possible that Peter dictated to a different literary assistant or wrote this book himself.

The author is generally accepted as Simon Peter.  His signature appears in the first verse and the biographical information is in line with Peter's life.  He speaks of being cleansed from his sins (1:9), his approaching death (1:13) which had been predicted by Jesus (1:14; Jn.21:18,19).    

The transfiguration is personally witnessed and is an important event in the lives of himself and the others (1:15-18).  There had been a previous epistle sent to the same people.  The recipients had received letters from Paul which some found difficult.  They twisted their meaning.  Peter recognized them as Scripture, (3:15,16).

The author vigorously condemns falsehood and hypocrisy, (2:1-3). It would be hard to accept that he would himself be a deceiver and write a spurious letter.
In addition there is a presumption of authenticity because there are no traces of heresy, and nothing that Peter could not have written.  It is not embellished with biographical detail which are clearly imaginative as many of the apocryphal books are. It can be treated as genuine since conclusive proof of spuriousness is lacking.

3. The date of writing of the epistle is around A.D. 67.

4. It is not certain from where it was written.  Generally those who hold that 1 Peter was written from Babylon hold this one was also. In the same manner, those who hold for Rome as the place of writing of the first epistle hold for Rome as the place for this one as well.


The theme of the book is that false teaching and apostasy is defeated by knowledge of Christ, and practising Christian virtues.


Christ is seen as Saviour, the Coming One, and the Deliverer.

Key Words

The key words are know and knowledge which appear sixteen times, six of which refer to the knowledge of Christ.

Key Verse

2 Pet. 1:2,3 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, (3) According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

1. It was written to remind and re-emphasize the need of a firm and full knowledge of the truth of God.

2. He wrote to warn of the dangers of false teachers and those who cause division.

3. It was given to encourage godly Christian living.

4. He wrote to remind them of the coming of Christ and the judgment that would transpire at that time.

5. He gave the epistle to encourage them that the false teachers would be judged at the coming of the Lord.


Events and Characters

1. He begins by reminding them what they have in Christ.  They have be delivered from corruption. They have faith and now virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love are to be added.  If this is done they will not fail or be unfruitful.  He is about to be martyred and so reiterated that they have received the pure gospel from eyewitnesses, of which he is one. In addition they have the confirmation of the Old Testament prophets.

2. He begins to deal with the issue at hand.  In Old Testament times there were false prophets, so in present times there are false teachers, who are evil, covetous and destined for God's judgment.  The angels, people of Noah's day nor the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were not spared so neither will these be. God delivered Lot so He will continue to deliver His own.  Those who walk after their own lusts, in uncleanness and despising governments, are wells without water  and will be consigned to eternal damnation.  They return to the evil from which they were once delivered.

3. The Lord is coming again even though it is delayed.  People will scoff at the idea but just as the flood came in Noah's day so this is reserved unto judgment.  God is not slack or careless about His promise, but gives lengthy opportunity for people to repent. He will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, and sudden destruction will over take the earth.  When we realize that all that is around us will be destroyed we should conduct ourselves accordingly.  We look for a new heavens and a new earth filled with righteousness.  Therefore, live a blameless life, be steadfast and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.  Don't be like those who twist the scriptures including Paul's writings.

Lessons to Remember

1. We have been made partakers of the divine nature.

2. We are to add to our faith those things which bring stability to us, rather than expect God to do it all.
3. The gospel we have received is carefully documented by eye witnesses.  

4. There are false teachers who try to subvert the faith and we should be wary of them.
5. God's judgment comes upon those who pervert the way of the Lord.

6. The coming of the Lord is delayed and people will scoff but He will return again.

7. We know that even though the present will be destroyed, the future is a place of righteousness.

8. It is our responsibility to be steadfast and cultivate those things that cause us to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ.


I. Faithful Shepherd Feeds the Sheep and Faith    1
II. The Faithful Contender for Faith    2
III The Hope There is in Truth    3

Outline (Alternative)

I. Salutation    1:1
II. The Nature of True Knowledge    1:2 - 21
    A. A Gift From God    1:2 - 4
    B. A Growth in Experience    1:5 - 11
    C. A Ground of Certainty    1:12 - 21

III. The Peril of Abandoning Knowledge    2:1 - 22
    A. The Incursion of Error    2:1 - 3
    B. The Examples of Error    2:4 - 10a
    C. The Activities of Error    2:10b - 19
    D. The Danger of Error    2:20 - 22
IV. The Hope in True Knowledge    3:1 - 18
    A. The Precedent of the Past    3:1 - 7
    B. The Promise of the Future    3:8 - 13
    C. The Persistence of Expectation    3:14 - 18

Feed Yourself Students:

Before the next lesson do the following:

1.  Read through the Books of I & II John three times each.

2.  Do a subject study on the word "love" as used in these two books.

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