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New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation - Lesson 47

1 Peter - Introduction

The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage Christians to be faithful during a time of suffering.

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation
Lesson 47
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1 Peter - Introduction

General Epistles

Part 4
 

III.  1 Peter (part 1)

A.  Introduction

1.  Authorship

a.  The Apostle Peter

b.  Objections

i.  The Greek is too good.

ii.  The theology is too Pauline.

iii.  The persecution mentioned didn't take place until later.

c.  Response

i.  We don't know the level of Peter's Greek. Silvanus could have made it better Greek.

ii.  The theology is the theology of the Church.

iii.  The persecution appears to have been periodic and unofficial.

2.  Audience

3.  Place of Origin

4.  Outline

a.  Salutation (1:1-2)

b.  The identity of God's people (1:3-2:10)

c.  The responsibilities of God's people (2:11-4:11)

d.  The responsibilities of the church and elders (4:12-5:11)

e.  Conclusion (5:12-14)


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  • Acts was written by the same person that wrote the Gospel of Luke and continues where Luke left off with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

  • Luke wrote as a historian and includes details related to geography, political leaders and navigational terms. He was also an eyewitness and acquainted with eyewitnesses of events recorded in Acts.

  • Luke's purpose in writing Acts was give an orderly historical account of events surrounding Christ's ascension, the first followers of Christ and the spread of the early Church.

  • Acts 1:8 is the theme verse for the whole book. The structure of the book of Acts shows how this theme was fulfilled by recording events relating the spread of the gospel geographically.

  • At first, the early Church was made up mostly of Jews who continued to live a Jewish lifestyle.

  • Two events in the early Church were the choosing of an apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

  • The elements of conversion in the New Testament are repentance, faith, confession, regeneration and baptism.

  • Many of the early Christians spoke Greek and Aramaic. Stephen was one of the first deacons and was martyred for his faith.

  • The apostle Paul's background as a Jew, training as a Pharisee, and Roman citizenship had a significant influence in his ministry and writings.

  • Paul had a dramatic conversion experience as he was traveling on the road to Damascus.

  • After Paul's conversion, on some areas of his theology his positions stayed the same, and on some areas his positions changed dramatically.

  • Many of the events related to Paul's life and ministry are recorded in the book of Acts.

  • The conversion of Cornelius and Peter's vision were important events in emphasizing the inclusion of Gentiles into the early Church.

  • The church at Antioch sent out Paul, Barnabas and John Mark to preach the gospel. This was Paul's first missionary journey.

  • The Jerusalem Council was a meeting of the early Church leaders to decide how to include Gentiles Christians into what had, up to this point, been a predominantly Jewish Christian group.

  • Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas went through Asia Minor, then to Macedonia and Greece.

  • Some of the letters from Paul in the New Testament are to an individual and some are to congregations. The letters are written in a form that includes the same general elements in the same order.

  • A main theme of 1 Thessalonians is the second coming of Christ.

  • Paul addresses some issues regarding the second coming of Christ, such as being responsible to work and support yourself in the meantime.

  • On his third missionary journey, Paul spent most of his time in Ephesus.

  • Paul defends his apostleship and explains that the foundation of our relationship with God is based on faith, not works.

  • Paul begins by defending his apostleship. He then explains justification by faith and gives some ethical exhortations. (The lecture does not cover points C. Ethical Exhortations (5:1-6:10) and D. Conclusion (6:11-18), but we included the outline points for your benefit.)

  • Most people agree that Paul wrote both letters to the Corinthians. He answered questions from people in the Corinthian church and addressed problems that had arisen.

  • In 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes unity and diversity in the body of Christ, and responds to questions about marriage, spiritual gifts and the Lord's Supper.

  • Paul defends his actions and apostleship and encourages the people in the church in Corinth to contribute to his collection for the poor in Jerusalem.

  • The content of Paul's letter to the church in Rome was shaped by the ethnic background of the congregation and the challenges they were facing at that time.

  • The outline of Paul's letter to the Romans indicates his understanding of the fundamental concepts of the gospel.

  • Paul wrote Romans from the perspective of his calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

  • Paul begins Romans by stating the problem of sin and enumerating a few specific sins. His conclusion in chapter 3 is that both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the wrath of God.

  • The divine remedy to the problem of sin and separation from God is justification by a righteous God.

  • The results of God's righteousness include, peace, hope, freedom, living in the Spirit and assurance.

  • Paul was arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem, went on trial in Caesarea, and was transported to Rome and imprisoned awaiting trial before Caesar.

  • A major theme in the book of Philippians is joy in times of adversity.

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the preeminence and supremacy of Christ.

  • Imperative is always based on the indicative.

  • Most scholars agree that Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul, partly because the content follows an outline that is similar to other letters attributed to him that are contained in the New Testament.

  • In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes who we are in Christ and the mystery of the gospel.

  • Paul writes to Philemon about how Philemon should receive his runaway slave Onesimus, who has become a committed disciple of Christ under Paul's influence and is returning to him.

  • Luke does not record the details of Paul's death in the book of Acts.

  • The best argument is for Pauline authorship, possibly with the help of a secretary.

  • Two themes in 1 Timothy are the role and requirements for bishops and elders, and the role of women in ministry.

  • Paul gives instructions to Titus who is a pastor in Crete.

  • Paul gives instruction to Timothy, who is a young pastor.

  • It is unclear who wrote the book of Hebrews.

  • A major theme in Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ. There are also passages that emphasize that perseverance is essential.

  • According to James, true faith results in works.

  • The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage Christians to be faithful during a time of suffering.

  • Themes in 1 Peter include the atonement, the new birth and the continuity of the Old and New Testaments.

  • Some people question whether or not 2 Peter was written by the apostle Peter.

  • Themes in 2 Peter include false teachers and the return of the Lord.

  • 1 John is similar to the Gospel of John in style, vocabulary, theology and purpose.

  • John makes a distinction between acts of sin and continuing in sin.

  • Jesus came as God in the flesh and offers us the gift of eternal life.

  • Revelation is a book written in an apocalyptic genre by the apostle John.

  • The philosphy of interepretation you use when you study the book of Revelation determines what you think specific passages in the book are teaching.

  • Chapters 1-12 begins with the seven churches, and includes the seven seals and seven trumpets.

  • Revelation chapters 13-22 focus on the beast, Christ's final victory, final judgment and the millenium.

  • After Christ ascended and the church was spreading, it was helpful to have a written record of Christ's life and the apostles' teaching. All the books included in the New Testament were written before the end of the first century.

  • Each book included in the New Testament had to meet specific criteria. They are arranged with the Gospels first, then letters, then the book of Revelation.

In this second graduate-level class on New Testament Survey, Dr. Robert Stein walks you through the New Testament books Acts through Revelation. In his analysis of the books, you will learn not only the facts but also be challenged with their theological and spiritual significance.

Course: New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation

Lecture: 1 Peter - Introduction


The author of this book begins, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” There’s no doubt at all as to who this author claims that he is. He is Peter. How many great Peters do you know in the early church? One. Also, he in 5:1 refers to himself, “… as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ …” one who was present at the sufferings of Jesus, an eyewitness.

Objections to Peter having written this:

• Like James, some claim that the Greek is too good for Peter to have written it. We’ll talk about that in just a minute.

• Some say that there’s a little too much Pauline theology here. I don’t know if Pauline theology is just Paul’s theology. I think this may be the theology of the Christian church that both Paul and Peter share.

• Some suggest that what we have in 1 Peter is a persecution by the state, which is an event that didn’t take place until after the death of Peter.

Let’s look at these three objections more closely. For the first one, it’s likely that Peter used an amanuensis (in other words, he dictated to a secretary). A secretary is mentioned in 5:12, “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you.” He’s written using Silvanus, who perhaps touched up what Peter was saying, and made it into better Greek. Also, I don’t think you should say that either Peter or James were extremely uneducated people. There is a kind of education that people have through experience, and after 30 years or so of being a leader in the church, it’s amazing how much Greek you can learn. I think the idea that Peter is too uneducated to write this loses sight of the fact that people do grow in their writing ability and their speaking ability. I hope that 30 years after you’ve begun your preaching, you’ve become a better preacher. I trust that you’ll be writing better 30 years on than you do now. And I think that we can attribute the same possibility to Peter.

As to its Pauline theology, you have to remember that Silvanus was closely associated with Paul. And if he is acting as the secretary at this point, it’s doubtful that Peter had such a totally opposed theology that they couldn’t get along.

As to the alleged persecution, there is persecution in the church. But you have to remember that Paul experienced lots and lots of persecution, of which none of it was official until the very end. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, where Paul talks about all his beatings, imprisonments, etc., there was nothing there that was official, coming from Rome. Sometimes he went into a city and the officials took a hand in this; but it was not an organized, official persecution. And most of it was instigated by other opponents, coming from the synagogue. Paul’s understanding of civil authority seems to be too positive for him to have undergone an official kind of persecution. Look at 3:13-14, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” This does not look like the kind of persecution that the writer of the Book of Revelation is talking about, in which the state is actively seeking to take the role of Satan in trying to do away with the church. This is not the kind of persecution that we find established later on.

The letter is addressed to the exiles of the dispersion. Here, they seem to refer to Gentiles, whereas in James, they seem to refer to Jews. In James 1:1, we have “… to the twelve tribes in the dispersion ….” Here, we have the twelve tribes being primarily Gentile in nature. In James 2:1-3, he makes this comment, “My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing ….” Now, “assembly” in this verse is the Greek word “sunagogen”, and it probably refers to what we would call a “synagogue”. At the time when James wrote, the church was still meeting regularly in the synagogue. It is only afterwards, after the fall of Jerusalem and later on towards the end of the first century, that Jewish Christians were essentially kicked out of the synagogues, because there came to be a Jewish prayer of judgment upon the Christian community, the followers of “The Way”. And you couldn’t go to the same synagogue regularly when that started, and pray with the congregation a request to bring judgment upon the Christian community. So eventually, that drove Jewish Christians out of the synagogue. But here, this doesn’t seem to be true yet. They’re still part of the synagogue in that regard.

For Peter, however, they are clearly Gentiles, who are through faith Abraham’s children, and thus part of the dispersed people of God. In 2:10, for instance, “Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” That makes no sense if it’s addressed to Jews, but it makes good sense if it’s addressed to Gentiles. And if we look at 4:3, “Let the time that has passed suffice for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when no longer join them ….” In other words, let the past be sufficient for having done the Gentile sins you were once involved in.

The place of origin is mentioned in 5:13, and it’s labeled as Babylon, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.” Could that literally mean Babylon, the great city on the Tigris/Euphrates River, in what we call Iraq today? The city of Babylon existed in the time of the first century. In fact, when we talk about the Jewish oral traditions being written down in the Mishnah (which, together with its commentary the Gemara, makes up the Talmud), we have to point out that there were actually two Talmuds. One originated in Jerusalem, and is called the Jerusalem Talmud. The second is the Babylonian Talmud, which originated with Jews who were still living in Babylon. So this could, then, refer to Babylon, the city on the Tigris/Euphrates River. However, it looks more like it would refer to the city of Rome, because Rome is the new center of the world, the new “Babylon”. And, in the Book of Revelation, Babylon is clearly a code word referring to the city of Rome. We’ll look at that in a few weeks, where Babylon is portrayed as this great harlot sitting on seven hills. I don’t know if the writer of Revelation didn’t think that everybody in the world would immediately know he’s talking about Rome, because Rome was built on seven hills. The other thing about 5:13 is that Mark is with him. Tradition is very strong that Mark is associated with Rome, and that he wrote his gospel after Peter died in Rome, in order that the Jesus traditions that he taught would not be lost. So, I think 1 Peter is written from Rome to the Gentile Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (in other words, to the Christians further to the east).

The outline has a normal salutation, the identity of God’s people being emphasized, responsibilities for the people and for the church, and a conclusion.