Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 29

1 Peter

A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 29
Watching Now
1 Peter

III. I Peter – Perseverance Despite Persecution

A. Similarities that 1 Peter has with Hebrews and James

1. 1 Peter and Hebrews

a. Same date and circumstances: early to mid 60's near the onset of Nero's persecution (see esp. optative in 1 Peter 3:14)

b. Different audience ("Western Turkey") and provenance ("Rome")

2. 1 Peter and James

a. Similar introductions (James 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1)

b. James implies Jews, 1 Peter doesn't (see especially 1 Peter 4:3-4; cf. 2:10)

c. Both primarily exhortational

B. 1 Peter Outline (Simplest Version)

1. The Problem of Suffering (1:1-12) [N.B. purifying value]

2. First Response: Holiness (1:13-2:10) [N.B. language of "Israel" applied to "church"

3. Second Response: Right Living in Society (2:11-3:22) [N.B. apologetic value of submission (2:12, 15, 3:1, 16)

4. Suffering and Eschatology (4:1-19) [N.B. summary in v. 19]

5. Conclusions (5:1-14) [N.B. addition to domestic code in 5:1-4]

C. The "Domestic Code" (Haustafel) in the Epistles

1. Colossians/Ephesians

a. Husbands/Wives

b. Parents/Children

c. Masters/Slaves

2. 1 Peter

a. Government/Citizens

b. Husbands/Wives

c. Masters/Slaves

d. Elders/Rest of the Church

D. 1 Peter Outline

1. Greeting and Thanksgiving (1:1-12)

2. Call to Christian Holiness (1:13-2:10)

[First Christological Confession]

3. Principles of Submission (2:11-3:7)

a. Citizens and government

b. Slaves and masters

[Second Christological Confession]

c. Wives and husbands

4. Suffering for Being a Christian

[Third Christological Confession]

[Christ announcing victory over demonic realm during ascension?]

[Creating significant purification for us now (4:1) and full salvation after death (4:6)]

5. Exhortations (5:1-12)

6. Closing (5:12-14)

E. 1 Peter 3:18-22 Unpacked

1. Vv. 18-19 – "by the Spirit, through whom," vs. "in the spirit, through which"

2. V. 19 – "preached" as "proclaimed message," not "offered salvation" (k_russ vs. euangeliz¬_))

3. V. 19 – "spirits in prison" as demons

4. V. 20 – disobedience = role in Genesis 6 (cf. 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6)

5. V. 21 – "baptism saves" as "pledge" or "response"

6. V. 22 – when all this happened – during ascension

F. Responses to Persecution and Injustice in James and 1 Peter

1. James 5:7-11

a. Prayer

b. Trust in God's eschatological vengeance

c. Denunciatory, prophetic rhetoric

d. No actual justification for violence

2. 1 Peter 2:11-4:19

a. Do good to those mistreating you (2:11-17, 3:8-16)

b. Bear unjust suffering as Christ did (2:18-25, 3:17-4:11)

c. Do not submit to authorities' anti-Christian mandates (3:1-7)

d. Trust in God's eschatological vengeance (4:1-19)

e. No actual justification for violence

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
1 Peter
Lesson Transcript


This is the 29th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


Petro greeted the visiting team of American seminary professors cordially but cautiously.  None of them had ever been to his country before but several of them spoke as though they considered themselves expects on how Christians in his land should relate to their society and government. On the one hand, there were those who were suspicious of any cooperation with the State because it had a history of repressing evangelical witness. These professors inclined toward the church to stick to preaching the Gospel, by which they meant the message of calling individual sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus. It was also important for Christians to love one another and take care of their own, so to speak, in a society where irrespective of government policies, only a handful of people were Protestants of any kind while another group of professors stressed a quite different kind of message. The reason the government is suspicious of you and at worst persecuting you is they don’t see you caring for the physical and social needs of hurting people all around, they would argue. Tell them that Jesus in the Scriptures tell Christians to be concerned for the poor, to do their best to get alone with the governing authorities and get involves with programs of social concern; then you will have an open door to share more about your faith in Christ. 


Both perspectives made sense to Petro, at least, in part. His country had been under a notorious dictator for some time, but it had been a decade since there had been any overt persecution. The pastor of his own Baptist congregation, Reverend Fernandez who years ago spent time in jail for his faith, but now preached openly in a downtown church of the capital city. Every now and then a government representative would come incognito to check up on things but in the past few years, more often than not, they simply got converted. But for the most part, the only messages Pastor Fernandez preached were about personal spiritual piety. He stayed well clear about any statements on social or political issues. In fact from one point of view, the future might turn out to be a rosy one, religiously speaking; at least, for mainline protestant churches were given freedoms and endorsements in this historically Roman Catholic country. An interdenominational seminary had been allowed to open and was flourishing. In the evangelical world, house churches were being planted at an unprecedented rate and charismatic groups had begun to begin worship and social action to an extent previously unknown in this part of the world. 


On the other hand, on a political and economic front, the future seemed bleak. Foreign aid from the wealthier countries of the world that had historically supported Petro’s nation was increasingly shrinking and austere government rationing of such basics as electricity, gas and oil and various food stuffs had begun. From time to time, talks of coup attempts swept local neighborhoods, but the president of the country seemed so firmly in power that the most that ever happened was a round up and imprisonment of their various alleged dissidents. Non-Christians were jittery that if anybody, Christians included, started to cause trouble in social political arena, innocent people would suffer as well. In such a folk culture, one might be described as being more concerned with fiesta than with serious morality. Religion was okay, indeed, it was officially pervasive throughout society as long as it was primarily a matter of ritual and ceremony rather than social and personal transformation. 


The stakes suddenly heightened in the conversation; Doctor Nordstrom, from the Kansas senate of the Lutheran Church announced that in negotiations between his denominational executives and government representatives, he had received permission for his church to buy a prized ocean front piece of property for church work. The major function of the land would be a retreat center for Christian young of all denominations. Americans in partnership with local Latin Christian leaders would have complete freedom to teach and preach whatever they wanted with two stipulations: one, part of their work had to include material aid to impoverished and homeless children of the nearby capital and second, they were not allowed to criticize the social or political policies of the government. So Petro was asked, would he be willing to head up the national wing of this joint venture? Petro thought and wished he knew how to answer. 


What you have just heard, unlike the introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews in the previous lecture, is something that the lecture wrote, never published as a case study where all the names and various minor details have been changed to preclude identification of any of the participants but otherwise the details are based on a composite of two experiences in which the lecturer was involved during the decade of the 90’s. The student who is listening to this serious of lectures might wish to pause and reflect some on how he or she would begin to address the situation, particularly in light of 1st Peter. If there are any students working together as they take this course, this would be an ideal time for some joint conversation and discussion. 


We’ve entitled 1st Peter, ‘perseverance’, despite the persecution; and as we unfold the contents of this letter, we will see that it seemingly attempts to walk a fine line between the extremes of inadequately emphasizing personal piety and holiness in faith in Jesus for the sake of social outreach. And there is an inadequacy of being sensitive to the needs of society in the name of preaching the Gospel. It is a fine line that many in the church have not attempted to walk, preferring simply one’s side or the other of the equation. And for those who have made the attempt, by their own admission, it is incredible easy to fall off the tightrope in one direction or the other. But before we come back to those juxtaposed themes and possible applications to this case study. Now that we are arriving at our third non-Pauline epistle of the remaining letters of the New Testament, it’s interesting to reflect on the similarities and differences that we’ve seen thus far. For example, if we compare 1st Peter with Hebrews we will discover that the best we can reconstruct is the daily circumstances of the composition and the delivery of this letter, both suggest they were written almost at the same time and that was before Nero’s persecution had become particularly intense. But where things loomed on the horizon suggesting that they might get worse before they got better; in 1st Peter, perhaps the most significant text, typically brought into this conversation is in chapter 3:13 reads, ‘who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?’ If we stop there, in the 21st century, people could recite a litany of the tyrants and dictators of world history, but we know that we must consider every Scripture and context. 


We continue to read in verse 14, ‘but even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.’ Note that this sentence structure was very rare at least by 1st century koine Greek standards. (The lecturer speaks and explains linguistically of the rarity and specifics of this ‘if statement/condition’ in Greek. There are four types or conditions of such a sentence in English also, each having their own meaning.) And the closest thing one finds anywhere in the New Testament to a fourth class condition. That is to say, a sentence, if it were complete, would be a full fourth class condition in the Greek, in which a grammarian sometimes speaks of the future less probable. Less probable than the third class condition that employs the subjunctive mood for the verbs that introduces some measure of doubt into an ‘if’ clause. Here the fourth class condition introduces even more doubt. If the persecution had begun in Rome, it’s unlikely that Peter could have written and introduced this kind of doubt. Even if you should suffer for doing what is right and yet at the same time, he recognizes what he calls a fiery ordeal, more literal than some translations read. 


In 5:12, ‘it has come on you to test you as if something strange were happening to you, but rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ.’ In verse 13 it continues, ‘so that you may be over joyed when his glory is revealed.’ We have no evidence of Peter in Rome, despite a long standing Catholic tradition to the contrary. Prior to the 60’s and the reference to Babylon in 5:13, this is almost certainly a code word for Rome as unambiguously in the Book of Revelation at the end of the 1st century. Because Babylon of the Old Testament lay in ruins and only a small village nearby populated that part of Peter’s world. The indication is that he or the Christian message arrived there anytime soon after the formation after the Christian movement. 


A difference between 1st Peter and Hebrews, however, has to do with how Rome figures into the background circumstances. With Hebrews, it seems most likely that the churches to which the writer addresses his letter were in Rome, but he was someplace else, maybe in Jerusalem. Here, it is Peter who is in Rome and he is writing explicitly in chapter 1:1 to believers scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, all of which form part of western and northern Tuckey today. What then if we compare James and 1st Peter? Now we are struck by the similarities of the introduction of these two letters. If we recall in James 1:1, he identifies himself and then greets the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Peter also in 1:1 speaks of God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout and then lists the given provinces just mentioned. God’s elect, of course had been in the Jewish people and the scattering here refers to the same dispersion in the diaspora that James addresses at the beginning of his letter. But despite those very similar introductions, was everything in the letter of James could be accounted for within the constraints of a Hellenistic Jewish audience in the 1st century. The statements in 1st Peter that make it likely that at least a majority of his audiences, not least because of comparative pockets of Jews in the areas mentioned were gentile. 


Chapter 4:3-4 read, ‘for you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do;’ gentiles, heathens, and nations living in lust, debauchery, drunkenness, orgies and detestable idolatry. Whatever else one wanted to say about Jewish failings at key junctures throughout their history, in that sense could 1st century Judaism in any identifiable location in which we were aware be described in general with these very pagan practices. And only slightly less conclusive is the language of 2:10, ‘once you were not a people but you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, now you have received mercy.’ Language which is applied to rebellious disobedient Israel in its worst moments in the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Isaiah and Hosea, but not what one would expect Peter, a Jewish believer himself to be writing to former non-Christian Jews in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. If those premises are correct, then we have a striking example already in chapter 1:1 of applying language exclusively reserved for God’s people, the nation of Israel, the chosen race, the elect country, applied to gentile Christian churches that may have had a small amount of Jewish believers among them. 


This does not prove that Israel has become the church without remainder, spiritually speaking, but it certainly gives the lie to any who would make a sharp dichotomy between Israel and the church. At the very least, it shows a substantial overlapping of the church in Israel in a very striking fashion with which Jewish and gentile believers of any age must come to grips. We have spoken already of the locations in the country of northern Tuckey and one can look on the map to see the provinces of Bithynia and Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia. It’s not difficult to think that Peter sent a copy of his letter from Rome to be delivered to each of these provincial locations. 


What does Peter have to say and how should we outline it? Perhaps the simplest version is to see the opening twelve verses which return to the form of a conventional Hellenistic letter with greetings and thanksgivings, though in a form of praise or sobraraka in Greek as we first discussed in 2nd Corinthians. Chapter 1:1-12 in the context of that praise presents a problem for which the rest of Peter’s letter is a response to the growing suffering that believers are having to experience. Verse 6 reinforces what we saw earlier though, namely the suffering is growing. Though Peter believes it is a comparative short period of time they will have to endure. He writes, ‘in all of this you greatly rejoice,’ that is their salvation, ‘though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.’ This is also what chapter 4 suggests; as we continue to read on, these trials go beyond anything officially coming out of Rome to the more sporadic but also more widespread local harassments and hostility from local officials just from fellow town’s people and kinfolk and family and friends. In 4:4, Peter says that they’re surprised that you do not join them in their reckless wild living and they heap abuse on you. In 21st century local English, they would say, ‘what’s wrong with you? You’re not partying with us anymore.’ The abuse is perhaps largely verbal. Even here in this introductory 12 verse section in this praise, we get a key hint at the purposes of God in allowing this suffering. We saw several when we introduced 2nd Corinthians but another one, though not unrelated to those we saw before, is that which is introduced in verse 7, ‘they are come so that your faith which is a greater worth than gold, perishes, even though refined by fire may prove genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ That is to say, they have a purifying value for the individual, for the Christian community when they throw themselves and their independence on God’s mercy in such difficult times. 


The body of the letter begins in 1:13 and almost all commentators recognize that 1:13 – 2:10 hang together as a section, dealing on holiness. As a section on maintaining that purity that suffering can accomplish in every aspect of Christian living as a Christian community, as one looks internally, focuses within to keep their own house in order. And again, we see that in an even more striking fashion than we did in the opening verse, the language of Israel further applied to the church, particularly in chapter 2:5. They are living stones, being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And again, we see a remarkable cluster of such terms in verse 9, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special procession. His particular people, older translations sometimes put it; particular in the sense of distinctive. But then, beginning in 2:11 and here commentators don’t agree as to where the section ends, we have a domestic code of a certain literary form such as in Colossians and further examination of such a code in Ephesians. This is not holy living in the literal or metaphorical monastic community, largely out of sight of an otherwise would be watching world. This is right living in society that demonstrates painfully, in times of persecution, submission to the Emperor as well as too many other categories to authority as we saw was the content that characterize this literary form. This is much like we discussed with Titus, it interesting to see how repeatedly Peter refers to the apologetic value of such submission. 2:12 says, ‘live 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 comes.’ This is suggesting that they may well become saved or in 2:15, ‘for it is God’s will that by doing good, you should silence the ignorant talk of the foolish.’ Here they may necessarily convert but at least the malicious false claims ‘that Christians spread social disorder,’ can be put to rest. 


In chapter 3:1, in the context of wives submitting to their husbands; when those husbands are unbelievers and when the wives submit without word, when they have given their testimony and continue to speak and perhaps berate their husbands for not converting, would be to nag them and even alienate them from the Gospel, at worst. Nevertheless, it is Peter’s hope that they may win over without words by the behavior of their wives. As they explain in verse 2 when they see the purity and reverence of those lives, and finally in 3:16, ‘keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ, may be ashamed of their slander. Like 2:15, this may or may not lead to conversion but it at least leads to a change of heart. Those two contrasting motives or purposes or responses or all of the above in suffering, depending on whether one looks at it from God perspective or human perspective or both, then are joined together and summed up in 4:1-19 with the reiterated promise that the end is near, that God will judge and all the wrongs of the world will one day be righted. If the judgement of God begins with the household of God, if even his people do not escape through God’s permissive will, the hardships that persecution is causing, what will happen when God more directly, judges those who have unleashed that persecution on his people? And with Wayne Gruderment, his Tindale Bible Commentary on 1st Peter, it is very plausible to see 4:19 as summarizing everything in the letter thus far and perhaps representing a thesis or summary statement for the letter. 


So then for those who suffer, according to God’s will as opposed to suffering for being criminals or being tactless or idiots. There’s the problem that chapter 1 put forward, ‘should commit themselves to their faithful creator.’ There is the faithfulness, holiness, the piety as the first main response to the situation of suffering, ‘and continue to do good.’ Interestingly Bruce Winters points out that more often than not, the expression, ‘do good’ in New Testament epistles and in somewhat similar writings elsewhere, from that day, had the good of benefaction, of stewardship, of doing good with one’s money and material possessions. There is the second response to the problem, as it is all tied together, which would then leave chapter 5 as not the first time exhortation material appears in this letter. Though it begins and ends like a letter, the body intersperses exhortation and theology more like Hebrews did than like Paul’s letter did. But unlike Hebrews, it is the imperative that leads to the indicative, it’s the command that leads to the theological rational; where in Hebrews, it was the theological superiority of Christ that led to warnings. But to the extent that we can speak of an uninterrupted exhortation section toward the end of the letter body and 5:1 and following fits into that category. Intriguingly another element, a domestic code of sorts, like we’ve seen before but with the previously unparalleled content, except for that one stray verse in Hebrews 13:7 about the submission of the church to their elders.


The next PowerPoint slide reminds us of the similarities and differences between these various categories of authority and subordinate relationships. Both Peter and Paul in Colossians and Ephesians speak about husbands and wives and masters and slaves. But Peter says nothing about parents and children, substituting instead government and citizens and those three form a back to back trio of relationships in chapters 2 and 3. But then here, separated spatially in the originally scroll that Peter penned, hence the dashed lines in the chart to set this fourth category off from the other three is the relationship of elders to the rest of the church as well. Are these relationships for Peter that are purely for the sake of evangelism so that in a very different culture and very different era of human history, Peter were to have been confronted with people who saw equal relationships between categories paired in Peter’s domestic household. Would his advice have been to forget headship, to forget submission, which would be counter-productive to the Gospel in an egalitarian culture such as abandoning them would have been counter-productive in his world. One could read a lot of Peter, a higher percentage than of Titus and perhaps begin to formulate this hypothesis but then it is striking that when Peter finishes it, he speaks about continuing to do good, the good that Hellenistic philosophers talked so much about, that referred to that which was inherently virtuous in a more timeless or normative fashion and so the tension and polarization, the debate between egalitarian and complementarian, this time more in terms of gender roles in the home and family than in the church remains still unresolved.