1 Peter 1:3-9
1 PETER 1:1-2. INTRODUCTORY VERSES
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen ones who are living as foreigners in the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
These verses identify the apostle Peter as the author of this letter—and it identifies the recipients as the parepidemois diasporas (the sojourners or exiles who are dispersed) in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia—all of which were located in Asia Minor (which we know today as Turkey). Later in this book, Peter will mention Babylon (by which he almost certainly means Rome)—and does so in a way that suggests that he is writing from Rome (5:13).
Peter identifies himself as an apostle—one of those chosen by Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel and to provide direction to the church. Apostolic counsel is authoritative—not merely advisory.
This book includes a number of references to trials, harsh treatment, and suffering that these sojourners are experiencing (1:6-7; 2:18-20; 3:13-17; 4:1-4, 12-19; 5:10). The great Roman persecutions would not yet have begun, so these would most likely be the result of local opposition. The recipients of this letter were probably mostly Gentiles (1:14, 18; 4:3-4). This book encourages them with a vision of “an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn’t fade away, reserved in Heaven for you” (1:4)—and calls them to live holy lives (1:15; 2:9)—to rejoice in their status as God’s chosen people. It holds up the prospect of rewards that they will experience in the future (1:8; 4:13ff)—and encourages them to stand fast in their faith in the midst of adversity.
1 PETER 1:3-5. BLESSED BE THE GOD AND FATHER
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy became our father again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn’t fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, 5 who by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Verses 3-12 are one long sentence in the original Greek.
“Blessed (Greek: eulogetos) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3a). In my study of this verse, I found several scholars referring to verses 3-12 as a blessing or eulogy. I understood calling these verses a blessing, but was puzzled by the word eulogy. I think of eulogies as comments made about the deceased at a funeral. But then it occurred to me that the word eulogy comes from two Greek words—eu (good) and logos (word), and “good word” seemed to fit in this verse—Peter is saying a good word about God or a word of praise to God. Then I looked at the Greek for this verse, and saw that the word translated “blessed” is the Greek eulogetos—and suddenly calling this passage a eulogy made great sense.
When we use the words “blessed” or “blessing,” we usually mean something good that we have received from God. We count our family as a blessing—and our home—and the food that we eat. That is in keeping with Biblical tradition (Genesis 5:2; 9:1; 12:2; 14:19; etc., etc., etc.). Sometimes we might even count an adversity as a blessing, because God can use our suffering to teach us patience or faith or some other virtue.
But Peter uses the word “blessed” in this verse to bless “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In doing so, he taps into a rich Biblical tradition (Genesis 14:20; 24:27, 48; Exodus 18:10; 1 Kings 1:48; 8:15, 56; 1 Chronicles 16:36; 29:10, 20; 2 Chronicles 2:12, Psalm 18:46; 28:6; 31:21; 41:13; 66:20; etc., etc. etc.). “Blessed” (eulogetos), as it is used here, expresses praise to God. It affirms that God is worthy to be praised.
There is another Greek word for “blessed”—makarios—which Jesus used in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-22). That word is similar in meaning to eulogetos, but is used in the New Testament only to speak of blessings that believers experience—not blessings or praises addressed to God.
I grew up in a tradition that emphasized extemporaneous prayer. Not being a person who thinks well on his feet, I found myself intimidated, almost tongue-tied, by unexpected calls to lead in public prayer. In studying this verse and its Old Testament antecedents, I realized how much easier my life would have been—and how much richer my prayers would have been—if someone had taught me to begin my prayers, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”—or a similar phrase from scripture. That would have been in keeping with Jesus’ Model Prayer, where he taught us to begin our prayers by honoring God’s name (“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy”—Matthew 6:9). In like manner, it would have been helpful if my mentors had encouraged me to memorize verses from the Psalms that can be easily incorporated into prayers (Psalm 8; 9:1-2; 15:1-2; 16:1-2; 19:1, etc., etc., etc.).
God is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Old Testament acknowledged Israel as God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9).
Jesus repeatedly acknowledged God as his Father (Matthew 10:32; 11:25-27; 12:50; 16:17, etc.). He shares God’s authority (John 3:35ff; 5:18; 10:18, 30, 34-36; 16:32; 17:10; 20:28).
Jesus taught us that God is our Father (Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8-9, 14-15, 18, 26, 32, etc.). “Because (we) are (God’s) children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into (our) hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ So (we) are no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6-7; see also Romans 8:15).
“who according to his great mercy” (Greek: eleos). The Greek words charis (grace) and eleos (mercy) are similar in meaning. Both have roots in the Hebrew word hesed, used in the Old Testament to speak of God’s loving-kindness, mercy, and faithfulness.
Furthermore, both grace and mercy imply that we have not earned God’s favor. Instead, God bestowed his favor on us freely (whether we call his favor “grace” or “mercy”), in spite of the fact that we have not deserved it. Both grace and mercy result in salvation (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:5).
In his book, Synonyms of the New Testament, R. C. Trench distinguished between charis (grace) and eleos (mercy) by saying that God extends charis (grace) when we are guilty and eleos (mercy) when we are miserable. That is the thinnest of distinctions, however, because guilt and misery so often go together—and the remedy for one will so often be the remedy for both.
Perhaps Peter Davids makes the most helpful distinction when he says, “Mercy is the application of grace.”
“became our father again” (Greek: anagennao hemas—has given us a new birth) (v. 3b). The word anagennao combines ana (again) and gennao (to beget). There are different words in the Greek for giving birth (by the mother) and begetting (by the father). Gennao is the word for begetting by the father. Tikto is the word for the mother giving birth. In this verse, anagennao speaks of our being begotten again by the Heavenly Father—being born again. In other words, Peter is acknowledging that these Christians are enjoying a new life—a new status—by virtue of the action of the Heavenly Father in their behalf.
The best-known reference to rebirth is Jesus’ comment to Nicodemus, “Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can’t see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The idea of rebirth is that we must leave behind our old life of sin and enter into a new life with Christ. The idea of rebirth occurs frequently in the New Testament (Romans 6:1-11; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:22-24; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 1:3, 22-23). We experience rebirth at our baptism by being buried with Christ in the waters of baptism and being raised to a new life (Romans 6:4-11).
“to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v. 3d). Ours is a living hope because of Jesus’ resurrection—he is a living Lord and Savior. His resurrection paves the way for our resurrection at the end of time.
“to an incorruptible (Greek: aphthartos) and undefiled (Greek: amiantos) inheritance that doesn’t fade away (Greek: amarantos), reserved in Heaven for you” (v. 4). This verse is key to this passage. Peter is encouraging these Christians to weather adversity, and the key to his encouragement is that they can count on “an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that (will never) fade away.” That inheritance is “reserved in Heaven for (them).”
“incorruptible” (aphthartos). Paul uses this Greek word and its’ opposite, phthartos (corruptible) in his letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:52-54). In that passage, he contrasts the corruptible body that we now possess with the incorruptible body that we shall possess. In other words, our current bodies are subject to wear and tear and decay. None of that will be true of our resurrected bodies. Those bodies will last for an eternity with no decay. That is the promise that Peter lifts up here.
“undefiled” (amiantos). Torah law specified that animal sacrifices must be without blemish—perfect (Leviticus 22:17ff.). The logic behind that requirement was twofold. First, God is perfect, so it would be inappropriate to give him a defiled or imperfect sacrifice. Second, the sacrifices were intended to honor God, and people needed to learn that God expects their best—not their castoffs.
Furthermore, people who are defiled—stained by sin—are not fit to enter into God’s presence. The Old Testament sacrifices were intended to remove the stain of sin from the person making the offering. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the culmination of the sacrificial system, removing the stain of sin from all who believe in him. This makes them fit to receive an undefiled inheritance.
“doesn’t fade away” (amarantos). We are surrounded by beauty that fades. The flowers that decorate our gardens bloom and then die. Our possessions (cars, houses) require constant maintenance—and even good maintenance cannot sustain them forever. The beauty of a young person fades over time. Beautiful young people might retain vestiges of their youthful beauty into old age—but not likely into their eighties, and certainly not into their nineties.
But Peter holds out the promise of an unfading inheritance to those who remain faithful to Christ.
“who by the power of God are guarded (Greek: phroureo) through faith” (v. 5a). The word phroureo means to guard as with a military guard. The picture that Peter paints here has God standing guard to protect us. Yes, the opposition is formidable. Yes, we are vulnerable. But, as Paul says elsewhere, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). What does it matter who is against us if God is for us?
Peter adds the phrase, “through faith.” We can be assured that God will do his part, but he calls us to do our part as well. Our part is to have faith—to live by the conviction that God is with us—to believe in Jesus Christ and the efficacy of his work on the cross. The stronger our faith, the more easily we will weather the storm.
“for a salvation ready to be revealed (Greek: apokalupto) in the last time” (Greek: eschatos kairos) (v. 5b). The word apokalupto suggests removing a covering to reveal what is contained therein. God has prepared salvation for these people (and for us), but the unveiling of that salvation will happen “in the last time” (eschatos kairos). The phrase “the last time” can have several meanings. It could point to the Parousia—the Second Coming of Christ. In any event, it clearly points to a future event where God will intervene in history to bring salvation to those who are faithful.
1 PETER 1:6-9. MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD
6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials, 7 that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ 8whom not having known you love; in whom, though now you don’t see him, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory 9 receiving the result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
“Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials” (Greek: peirasmos) (v. 6). Peter characterizes the present as a time of grief and trials. However, he puts that in perspective by noting that the difficulties that these Christians are experiencing are but are “for a little while.” Furthermore, he characterizes their sufferings as peirasmos—trials, tests.
“that the proof of your faith” (v. 7a). God often tests people to give them a chance to prove their faith:
• God tested Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham passed that test with flying colors (Hebrews 11:17-19).
• God tested the Israelites in the wilderness to humble them, to prove them, and to learn what was in their hearts—whether they would keep God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 8:2) and whether they would love God with all their heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; see also Exodus 15:25; 16:4; 20:20; Judges 2:22; 3:1, 4). We might think of these testings as a quality-control procedure. Yahweh needed to expose flaws in Israel’s faith and faithfulness so that he might provide the necessary discipline to restore them to proper faith and faithfulness. The testing was intended to do them good rather than harm, but the corrective discipline was usually painful.
• God also tests Christians (Matthew 26:41; Luke 8:13; James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:12). The person who passes those tests today can expect to be spared testing at the end of time (Revelation 3:10).
• God tested these Asia Minor Christians to give them opportunity to prove their faith.
“which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire” (v. 7b). It is their faith (v. 7a) that is more precious than gold.
This seems like an odd statement, because gold does not perish in the process of being refined by fire. Fire purifies gold by melting it, in the process causing some impurities to burn away and others to float to the surface so they can be skimmed off. In like manner, our adversities, if met with faith, refine, purify, and strengthen us.
When Peter says that gold perishes, perhaps he is referring to the fact that “we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out” (1 Timothy 6:7; see also James 5:1-6). We say, “You can’t take it with you,” and that is true. People try. The Egyptians buried their kings with food and treasures, but that only encouraged grave robbers to rob the tombs. Countless numbers of people try to exercise control over their money after death by specifying conditions in their wills—but many of them would turn over in their graves if they could see how their money is being spent.
“may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 7c). It is the proof of their faith (v. 7a) that will result in “praise, glory, and honor”—expressions of joy and worship. This will take place “at the revelation of Jesus Christ—almost surely meaning at Christ’s Second Coming.
“whom not having known you love; in whom, though now you don’t see him, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (v. 8). It is Jesus Christ (v. 7c) whom they have not known but nevertheless love. Unlike Peter and the other apostles, these Christians from Asia Minor were not privileged to see Jesus in person. By the time they became Christians, Jesus had long since ascended into heaven. Jesus knew that most Christians would never see him in the flesh, and so he told Thomas (who had seen the resurrected Jesus), “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed” (John 20:29). Because of the faith of these Asia Minor Christians, God will give them joy beyond expressing and will fill them with glory.
“receiving (Greek: komizomenoi) the result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (Greek:psyche) (v. 9). The word komizomenoi is sometimes used to speak of someone who is receiving a reward (Ephesians 6:8; Hebrews 11:13-16). The reward that these Christians can expect to receive for their faith is the salvation of their souls.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Barclay, William, Daily Study Bible: The Letters of James and Peter (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003)
Bartlett, David L., The New Interpreter’s Bible: Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude and Revelation, Vol. XII (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998)
Boring, M. Eugene, Abingdon New Testament Commentary: 1 Peter (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999)
Cedar, Paul A., The Preacher’s Commentary: James, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1984)
Craddock, Fred B., Westminster Bible Companion: First and Second Peter and Jude (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995)
Davids, Peter H., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle of Peter(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990)
Gaventa, Beverly R., in Brueggemann, Walter, Cousar, Charles B., Gaventa, Beverly R., and Newsome, James D., Texts for Teaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV–Year A (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995)
Grudem, Wayne A., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter, Vol. 17 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988)
Holladay, Carl R., in Craddock, Fred B., Hayes, John H., Holladay, Carl R., and Tucker, Gene M.,Preaching Through the Christian Year A (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1992)
Jobes, Karen H., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005)
MacArthur, John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Peter (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004)
Michaels, J. Ramsey, Word Biblical Commentary: 1 Peter, Vol. 49 (Dallas: Word Books, 1988)
Moritz, Thorsten, in Van Harn, Roger E. (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts: The Second Readings: Acts and the Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001)
Perkins, Pheme, Interpretation: First and Second Peter, James and Jude (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1995)
Schreiner, Thomas R., The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude, Vol. 37 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003)
Vinson, Richard B., in Vinson, Richard B., Wilson, Richard F., and Mills, Watson E., Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: 1&2 Peter, Jude (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 2010)
Waltner, Erland , Believers Church Bible Commentary: 1 and 2 Peter (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1999)
Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan