Audience: Christians throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
Subjects: Be holy as God is holy, Do not repay evil for evil, Be encouraged when suffering persecution, etc.
Like the other authors of the New Testament Letters, one of the major issues that Peter addresses is obedience to God and Jesus Christ.
As Paul says, all the commandments are summed up in "Love your neighbor" (Romans 13:9-10), which is why other authors like Peter tell his audience to love one another. However, like Paul, Peter does clarify throughout his letters what it means to obey God.
As part of his introduction, Peter gives a brief theology of the significance that Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection has for believers. He is encouraging his audience by explaining that through Christ's mercy and resurrection we are promised an imperishable inheritance of salvation and eternal life, which will be revealed at the end (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Peter says this is reason to rejoice when we suffer hardship and persecution. Such persecution and hardship is testing our faith to make it pure.
Peter continues to talk about salvation, giving evidence of it from the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). He then makes his point that (because of all these reasons regarding salvation) we should persevere, discipline ourselves, and be holy. Peter is essentially telling his audience to not sin (1 Peter 1:14).
He explains that we were bought by
means of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is reason for us to
purify ourselves and obey God, loving each other. While Christ has
existed since the beginning, he was not revealed until the end of
time (the beginning of the end of time being indicated by Peter as when Jesus lived roughly 2000 years ago).
Peter explains that God's word (his seed) in us is eternal, which is Jesus Christ as Christ's Holy Spirit. John too explains in the gospel of John 1 that Jesus Christ is the word of God, and he references this fact in 1 John 3:9.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)
"And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
Peter then lists a series of sins that we should rid ourselves of in order to be holy. He explains that we must learn to be holy so that we may grow into salvation.
Peter then compares us to living stones that are building God's temple, giving references in scripture. He calls believers “God's people” and “his nation,” again pleading with them to not sin (1 Peter 2:9-12).
He says to "Conduct yourselves honorably" (1 Peter 2:12). Peter is clearly telling them that their actions matter.
Just as Paul addresses in Romans 13, Peter too addresses how we are to respond to authorities. He explains that, so long as it does not oppose God's laws and authority, we are to obey human institutions placed over us (governments, etc.), so that Christians are not viewed as evildoers.
Again Peter says to not sin (1 Peter 2:16).
Peter explains that it says a lot about us when we are wronged for doing what is right, whereas it is no credit to us for being punished when we have done something wrong.
By continuing to be righteous, even when we are wronged, we are following the example of Christ.
Peter then tells both wives and husbands to respect each other and submit to each other.
Peter again reiterates what he has already said, saying to love one another and not to wrong others when they wrong us. He says that we are unlikely to be wronged if we are always doing good, but even if we are wronged we are blessed for responding with good.
"For it is better to suffer for doing good...than to suffer for doing evil." (1 Peter 3:17)
Peter then makes the case that the great flood is a foreshadowing of water baptism, but he explains that the physical baptism is not what saves. Rather the physical baptism is a representation of the spiritual baptism which is performed as a result of "a pledge to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21 see footnote in NRSV; NIV translation is "pledge of a good conscience toward God.")
What kind of pledge? A pledge of repentance, of turning away from sin and returning to obeying God.
Peter continues to encourage Christians so that they are prepared to suffer and be persecuted, as Christ was persecuted, and to live by God's will rather than our own human desires.
He says that those who continue to sin will have to give an accounting to God when judgment day comes. Peter again tells them to love and to not be surprised by persecution, "but rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings." (1 Peter 4:13)
Speaking of those who persecute, Peter says, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?" (1 Peter 4:18)
He then summarizes what he has been saying, "Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good." (1 Peter 4:19)
Peter ends his letter by speaking to the elders among the Christians, telling them how to oversee the church. He essentially tells them to be examples of Christ, serving the church like Christ served his disciples when he washed their feet (John 13:14-15). Jesus also talks about this subject when he says the greatest in the kingdom of God is the servant of all (Mark 10:42-45).
Peter also says to be humble, to give God our anxiety, be disciplined, etc. He encourages us by saying that Christ himself will restore us.
Peter then informs his audience that another person, named Silvanus, has actually done the writing part of this letter. While Peter is the author of this letter, the person who actually transcribed it onto paper was Silvanus.
The letter of 1 Peter to the various Christians scattered throughout the land, is largely a letter of instruction and encouragement. The main topics that Peter covers is to be holy as God is holy, to not repay evil for evil, and for them to be encouraged when suffering persecution.