A Study in Peters First
theme in Peter’s first epistle is suffering.
FL Cross said,
verb ‘suffer’ occurs twelve times in the epistle, as opposed to
sixteen times in the rest of the New Testament epistles.
Similarly, the noun “suffering” is used four times in Peter,
and only ten times in the other New Testament epistles.
Peter has “used the word
‘suffer’, in relation to the sufferings of Christ and those that
Christians have to bear as a sort of Ariadne thread for the whole
immensely interested in the nature of suffering.
It should be noted though, that he is not here interested in
general human suffering. His
central concern is with those who suffer for the cause of God.
They suffer for their loyalty to God.
Peter addresses himself to those who suffer as Christians.
starting point for Peter is the suffering of Christ.
Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered a cruel death on the
The prophets of the
Old Testament, moved by the Spirit, predicted his sufferings (1 Pet
Peter, more than
any other New Testament writer, links Jesus with the suffering servant
of Isaiah (1 Pet 2:22-25).
is the consequence and the only cure for sin.
It must be faced, if God is to intervene in the world to save
men. Suffering had to be
borne by the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pet 3:18).
Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might be
freed from our sin (1 Pet 2:14).
the lost world, and wanted to redeem it, so Jesus had to suffer
humiliation and the agony of cross.
He is the Passover lamb, who shed innocent and precious blood (1
Pet 1:19). For Peter the
sufferings of Jesus are the basis of an understanding of human
suffering. He elaborates a
number of implications for Christians who suffer.
Suffering is Normal
implication of Christ’s suffering is that those who follow him will
also suffer. This may come
as a surprise to those who think that Jesus came to rescue us.
They think that his sufferings will relieve our suffering.
Many Christians believe that Jesus suffered for us, so that we
will not have to suffer.
is not the view of Peter. The
hard message of his epistle is that since Christ suffered, his followers
should also suffer. Jesus
was sinless and yet he was hated and mistreated.
Those who follow him cannot expect exemption from similar
To be a Christian is to follow Christ. Anyone
who follows in his footsteps and lives the same kind of life is also
bound to suffer.
To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an
example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Pet 2:21).
Suffering is not just a vague possibility, but something which Christians should
be ready to meet.
we should not he surprised when suffering comes upon us.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though
something strange were happening to you (1 Pet 4:12).
made this very clear to the disciples.
He repeatedly warned that discipleship involves suffering.
Everyone who would follow him must take up the cross (Mk 2:34).
He promised them that they must drink the same cup of suffering
as he drank, and be baptised with the same baptism of fire (Mk
did not promise a soft cosy life, but was a call to a life of hardship,
suffering and humiliation, just like his own.
So when suffering comes, we should not be surprised.
Consequence of Obedience
authentic Christian lifestyle should produce suffering.
Peter identifies the Christian life with a life of love that does
not return evil for evil, but meets wrong with right , abuse with
blessing, and unjust power with suffering (1 Pet 2:22, 3:8,9).
expects that any Christian who lives in this spirit will receive
suffering, because they are alienated from those who hold power in the
A lifestyle of unconditional love in a sinful and hard world, can
only lead to suffering.
this is the life to which we are called.
In a hostile world, steadfast loyalty to Christ will lead to
trials and trouble.
Life is a
battleground where the forces of good and evil meet, so those who take
Christ’s side must expect to be attacked by the forces of evil.
Our struggle is against the devil, so a life of love, makes us
vulnerable to his attack .
For Peter, suffering is an inevitable consequence of a godly
that Jesus suffered implies that, suffering is God’s will for those
whom he loves (1 Pet 3:17; 4:19). It
may be inflicted by a pagan people, and even be the work of the devil,
but it is still part of the divine purpose and plan.
This is not easy to accept, but the reason has been well
expressed by John Ferguson.
mysterious providence suffering is a fact of life in the world, which is
incomplete because it is not given over in full obedience to God as
The love of God
reaches out to heal such suffering.
God’s way is not to meet violence and sin with violence and
sin, but with suffering and love. God
brings in his kingdom, not as a conquering: commander, but as the
alienation to atonement by suffering.
Sin seeks to conquer love by inflicting suffering; love conquers
sin by accenting the suffering .
are part of the divine plan for the redemption of the world.
As part of that plan, we can expect suffering as part of God's
will for us. This suggests
that those of us who are living in comfort in the West may have missed
part of that plan.
Pathway to Glory
important aspect of Jesus sufferings is that they were the pathway to
his glory. Peter continually
links the suffering of Jesus with his glory (1 Pet 1:11; 1:21; 4:13;
The prophets who
foretold his suffering, also foretold his glory (1 Pet 1:11).
After Jesus suffered by “being put to death in the flesh”, he
was raised into heaven, “and is at the right hand of God, with angels,
authorities, and powers subject to him” (1 Pet 3:18, 22).
He received his glory through suffering.
Jesus, we also will receive glory through suffering.
If you are
reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit
of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Pet 4:14).
amazing promise suggests that most glory seekers are looking in the
wrong place. Those who
partake in Christ's sufferings are the ones who share in his glory.
This glory will be fully revealed in the future, but is partly
upon them now.
and glory cannot be separated.
It is a
fundamental fact of New Testament faith that resurrection comes only
after death, that Easter comes after Good Friday, that renewal comes
only through suffering.
cannot bypass the cross. Only
when we are united with Christ in his sufferings, can we share with him
in the fullness of his glory.
church has perhaps not so often been true to itself and to its Lord.
But at those times and at those places where it has followed
him, it has also shared in his suffering, and in that suffering it has
discovered the joy of renewal. 
Rejoice in suffering
suffering gives those who suffer a reason to rejoice.
They are sharing in the glory of Jesus, so Peter urges them to
that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be
overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
(1 Pet 4:13).
Peter commends the Asian Christians for rejoicing in their troubles (1 Pet
1:6) For him, it is a great
privilege to be a Christian. They
have been "born anew" (1 Pet 1:7) and have been given a great
new life that is “guarded through faith” (1 Pet 1:5)
Praise be to
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has
given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish,
spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,(1 Pet 1:3,4).
this wonderful privilege, so we can rejoice even in suffering.
We are chosen by God, and nothing can take away the joy that this
suffering is a cause for rejoicing because it purges and strengthens our
character, unites us with Christ, and is a prelude to the glorious
recompense of the last day .
God's love and power is a guarantee of our hope, so we can
rejoice with confidence.
Redemption through Suffering
important aspect of Christ s suffering is its redemptive effect.
Our suffering as Christians helps sanctify us, because God is
leading us towards a Christ-like life through our suffering. Peter
makes this clear in 1 Peter 4:1,
yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in
his body is done with sin.
God is a
holy God, and we are to be holy like him.
God makes us holy through suffering.
And the God
of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you
have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you
strong, firm and steadfast(1 Pet 5:10).
their troubles to make them pure like refined gold, which has been
tested by the refiners fire (1 Pet 1:7).
this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have
had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that
your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though
refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise,
glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Pet 1:6,7).
sufferings to test and refine our faith, so that our lives may bring
praise and glory to him. Suffering
breaks the bonds that hold men of sin and futility, with all its
Suffering for Doing Evil
leads to holiness, but not all suffering has this redemptive quality.
Peter warns that Christians must only suffer according to God’s
But let none
of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in
other people’s matters. (1 Pet 4:15).
circumstances, suffering is what we deserve. 
reminds Christians that they should only suffer for doing good.
how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and
endure it? (1 Pet 2:20).
It is better,
if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1
suffering to which we are called is suffering as Christians.
We should be perfect in our behaviour, so there is no just cause
for complaint against us (1 Pet 3:15, 16).
suffering has no value. Christians
can become obsessed with suffering, and seek opportunities to suffer.
Some even beat their own bodies. This
is wrong, because suffering in itself is not virtuous.
Only if it is used to glorify God does it have value.
Thomas Merton says that although prayer and sacrifice require
each other, premature martyrdom is only inverted egotism.
It would be
more sincere and more religious to eat a full dinner in the
spirit of gratitude, than to make a sacrifice of part of it with the
feeling that one is suffering martyrdom.
Self chosen sacrifices are nearly always inferior to those
unasked for ones which the situation throws in the way. 
Respond with Love
suffering is God’s will we must respond to it in God’s way.
Therefore, Peter outlines the response a Christian should give to
persecution and rough treatment. It
is not an easy response. A Christian must not respond to
opposition or hostility with hate or retaliation, but with love .
This should be evident from the example of Christ.
they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he
suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who
judges justly (1 Pet 2:23).
should follow his example.
not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing,
because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1
Christians retaliate, the wrongdoer will be put off the Christian life.
Retaliation leads to bitterness, so the best response to evil is
should also respond to suffering in a spirit of submission. An important
theme in the epistle is submission to authority, even where it is
heathen and harsh. Selwyn
says that the trait of Jesus’ character which was most
admired by Peter was his meekness. He
laid aside his divine glory and followed this humiliation though, even
to the Cross, He is the one who suffered and did not threaten, though he
had the power to do so.
must follow this example and react to all authority with humility and
submission. God will oppose
those who are proud and give grace and protection to those who are
We do not
submit blindly to authority, but freely for the sake of the gospel.
such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing
wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits
Submit yourselves for
the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the
king, as the supreme authority, or to governors.... For it is God's will
that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men
(1 Pet 2:12-15
admits that the authority of rulers and governors comes from man, but he
urges submission to them so that the gospel will not be hindered.
The political leaders might be the enemies of God, but we are
required to respond to our enemies with love.
For Peter love involved submission.
should respond to suffering with good works.
Peter does not call for passive resignation to suffering, but
demands a demonstration of love towards our enemies through active
kindness. Over and over
again Peter urges the Christians to do good works (1 Pet 1:15; 2: 12,
13; 3:6, 11, 13, 17; 4 19).
is not suggesting that salvation is by works, but rather he is concerned
that persecution may cause Christians to withdraw from their society.
Instead of retreating, we should actively attack evil by doing
good whenever we can.
should not diminish our zeal for performing acts of love, but spur us
Christians who are persecuted respond in these ways, they will bring
glory to God through their suffering.
They should refrain from retaliation and commit their cause to
Peter sees suffering as part of God s will for Christians, he does not
diminish its seriousness. Rather
he calls it a fiery ordeal (1 Pet 1:12).
He does not pretend that the Christian life is easy, but declares
that it will be hard. This
is demonstrated by the urgency with which he encouraged the people
receiving his letter.
pointing out the glory which is theirs, and the benefits which their
suffering will bring, he hopes to comfort them.
Peter has suffered, so he knows
how hard suffering can be. He
urges the Christians not to lose heart, or be overcome by their
If we hold
fast, then the God who has called us will bless us, and bring us into
his glory. In our suffering
we are sharing with Christ, and this is the greatest privilege that
anyone can have. So even in
the hardest times we can rejoice.
we will be able to share with him in all his glory, when it is
eventually revealed. This is
a glorious message for us, should we ever be called to suffer for the
name of Jesus.
And the God
of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you
have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you
strong, firm and steadfast (1 Pet 5:10).
FL Cross, 1 Peter: a Paschal Liturgy, p. 14.
FL Cross, 1 Peter: a Paschal Liturgy, p. 13.
M Stibbs & AF Walls, The First Epistle General of Peter,
J Ferguson, The Place of Suffering, p.5.
FV Filson, Partakers with Christ, p.401.
J. Ferguson, The Place of Suffering, p.87.
Selwyn, The First Epistle of Peter, 91.
FG Selwyn, The First
Epistle of Peter, p.79.
 J Ferguson , The Place of Suffering, p. 92.
T Merton, The Contemplative Life, p.22
FV Filson, Partakers with Christ, p. 406.
EG Selwyn, The First Epistle of Peter, p.91.