I have come to know and appreciate 1 Peter through teaching a course on 1 Peter in Greek. First Peter is a little known book, which is surprising given the stature of its author in the early church. Peter is such a central figure in the Gospels and Acts. He is so closely associated with Jesus. How could he have failed to pick up on significant truths from Jesus, his teacher, example, and companion? Why are Peter’s letters so often neglected? Perhaps it is because 1 and 2 Peter are tucked away in the section of the New Testament that we commonly call the “General Epistles.”
Why would it be unwise for us to neglect 1 Peter? There are many reasons, but one has to do with 1 Peter’s teaching about suffering. Peter has a lot to say about suffering. He speaks about suffering for doing what is right (2:20, 3:17). He speaks about suffering like Jesus suffered (2:21; 3:17-18; 4:1, 13). It is quite clear that this life will include suffering, but that suffering has purpose and meaning in the purposes of God (1:6-7). And, thankfully, it is only for a short time, that is, suffering will be a part of our short sojourn on this earth, but it will not be a part of our future with God (1:6, 5:10). On the other side of our momentary suffering, we are looking forward to a wonderful future, an imperishable inheritance (1:4). In this sense, we are like our father, Abraham, to whom Peter connects believers by calling them “chosen sojourners” (1:1).
Why do we need instruction about suffering? Suffering is something that we do not welcome. Suffering, especially intense suffering, is something that we dread and would love to prevent. In our hearts, many of us want to believe that the health and wealth teachers are right. If we walk with God, we will not suffer. How do I know this? I have watched how a good number of people have reacted to suffering of various intensities. Many of them appear to be unprepared for suffering and they are tempted to give up on their faith in God. I have noticed my own reaction to signs that suffering might be around the corner for me or my loved ones. I have tried to prevent suffering through caution due to an unrealistic hope that if I make all of the right decisions, I can minimize my suffering. I am sure that I am not alone.
Peter provides instruction and exhortation for people who are suffering or preparing themselves for suffering. In 1 Peter 1:1-9, we will see how Peter provides a message of hope for us, as we cling to God in the midst of trials and produce something great through our suffering.
This post is the first in a series of posts on 1 Peter. To read the other posts in the series, click here.