1 Peter – “Suffering Saints”: An Introduction and Overview


An Introduction and Overview.


The major themes of 1 Peter are SALVATION (including future/eternal/certain hope) and SUFFERING (specifically for being a Christian).



[Sunday 26th April 1998 – after not preaching since 18th January due to illness]


  • Thanks – Prayers // cards and letters // meals // visits (being ill for extended period is a very isolating experience so really appreciate those who have come and chatted about everyday things in the world  – time is a great gift to give each other).
  • Thanks – to those who have taken on extra responsibilities to keep things running smoothly – esp. the elders and deacons.


Some Lessons:

What have I learned during these 3 months – or rather what am I learning? I would be lying if I said it had not been difficult.

Share some thoughts in the hope that it will help others who are in difficult circumstances. So often we come to Church week after week and our hearts are breaking // or we are facing real doubts and struggles BUT we wear masks and pretend all is well and we never deal honestly with our feelings with other people, with ourselves and with God.

Some think that because I am a pastor I have some extra ability to trust God through difficulty that is not available to other Christians – assure you this is not so!

Times in last few years and esp. last 3 months that I have been so angry with God that if had been sitting next to me I would have punched him on the nose!! Maybe that shocks some of you!! Times when I have ‘shouted’ at him! Times when I have told him I don’t like and don’t agree with what he is doing! Times when I couldn’t and didn’t want to pray or read my Bible – sometimes for weeks!!


I have learned that God has broad shoulders – he doesn’t zap us with bolts of lightening when we express our deepest feelings. We think we can’t tell God how we feel when we are angry with him or arguing with him –and we feel guilty and hide from him.

When we go through these periods – “dark nights of the soul”  – as some have called them God does not abandon us. We are in a relationship // he doesn’t get in a huff and go away when we express anger or frustration.


David in the Psalms told God how he felt ..

Psalm 13:1-3

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; (NIV)


We can so easily lose the force of David’s cry by dressing it up in ‘churchy jargon’ – David’s cry is “God, talk to me – say something – say anything – why have you abandon me!”


BUT God is there – slowly, reluctantly I would again reach for my Bible and the Holy Spirit would have been at work all the time – sustaining – — lying in hospital wondering whether the treatment would be effective etc… the words of Ps. 54v4 leapt off the page at me “But God is my helper. He is the one who keeps me alive!” [NLT]

When all is said and done it is God that we have to deal with – he calls us to himself – he is at work in us and through us in the ‘ups and downs’ of life.

The Challenge / responsibility that God calls his people to is to live for him // holy and godly lives // in the midst of life’s circumstances whatever those circumstances might be!!


Peter is doing this / encouraging and challenging his readers, the Christians of Asia to live for Christ in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances. He doesn’t for a moment minimizes or trivialize the suffering they face.

The question that Peter is dealing with in his letter is “How do Christians live in difficult circumstances and keep their faith and hope in God?”



The circumstances that Peter’s readers faced are very different to ours – they were being persecuted for being Christians. None of us will face that kind of suffering in the Western world (in others parts of the world certainly) – we might face mocking and rejection but none of our lives are at risk because we are Christians.


The fundamental question that Peter is addressing is “How is the Church  (whether persecuted or not) to relate to the world of its day?” There is always going to be opposition.


So the letter is about SALVATION – CHURCH – CHRISTIAN LIFE.


Today we are going to look at 1v1-2 and dip into other parts of the letter to get a feel for the overall theme and challenge of 1 Peter.


1 Peter 1:1-2

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (NIV)





These verses gives us a wonderful picture of God – of how the Trinity is involved in the rescue plan (salvation).

Believers – those in Asia to whom Peter is writing and us too – are who we are, not by chance but according to the foreknowledge of God, through the sanctifying work (making holy) of the Holy Spirit, for the obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.


What does all that mean??


1.1. Father – chose you.

The teaching of scripture that God chooses // elects us can be a reason for great assurance and contentment for Christians. The fact that the love grace and salvation of God to us is not dependent on our ability to earn it and hold on to it. It is secure in his sovereign power and will.


However this teaching of God’s election / foreknowledge has also severely shaken many Christians in their faith (some even to the point of abandonment).

Reason – preacher and teacher have often plucked it out of its context and studied it in sterile isolation — it then becomes insensitive and can be very damaging to the gospel and the Christian experience.


ILLUS.:  Bolt without nut.


When election is taken out of its biblical context and divorced from human responsibility it is misunderstood and the gospel message is perverted.

God never ‘forces’ unbelievers to believe against their will.

It is true that God chooses but it is never a despotic, insensitive coercion — the bible always understands humans as participating and responding to God in freedom and choice.

When election becomes a violent abuse of the human will it is no longer biblically accurate.


Beautifully expressed in the words of  a hymn “.. He drew me, and I followed on.”  (Happy day! Happy day!)


1.2. Spirit – changed you.

Sanctification – The work of the Spirit in the life of the believer to make him/her like Christ ..

1 Peter 1:15-16 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)


After seen as what happens in a believers life after conversion BUT the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work is at every stage of the believers life.

  • initially to bring us to Christ.
  • throughout life to help us grow in Christ – cooperation required on our part.
  • at the end to make us perfectly like Christ when we seen him.


1.3. Son – cleansed you and commanded you.

“sprinkling by his blood.” – Peter is using the imagery from the OT when the People of Israel agreed to obey the words and laws of the Lord ..

Exodus 24:3-8

3 When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” 4 Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”

8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (NIV)


In the NT the new covenant is seal by the blood of Jesus by which believers are sprinkled, figuratively speaking, to cleanse from sin.


NB how in the OT and here this ‘sprinkling by blood’  – is linked to obedience.

Believers are never to be passive in this act of salvation – Yes it is God’s work but we must respond with obedience {both are necessary — like a nut and bolt!!}

1 Peter 1:14&22 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance………. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (NIV)




Who are the recipients of this salvation??


2.1. Strangers.

Peter calls them “Strangers in the world” – it is quite likely that his readers were in fact strangers physically – people who had been moved around because of the Roman authorities – this being the case they would have been socially and politically disenfranchised – strangers and aliens in the communities in which they lived.

Peter uses this imagery to describe their spiritual state as well.

1 Peter 1:17

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. (NIV)

1 Peter 2:11

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. (NIV)


This thought is picked up in a number of places in the Scriptures – the idea that God’s people are pilgrims on a journey.

Abraham – looking for a City whose builder and maker is God.

The Nation of Israel – with the hope of the promised land.

Jesus – with the promise of going to prepare a place for his disciples.

Paul – heavenly citizenship

Peter – strangers and aliens in this world.


Old song  “.. this world is not my home, I’m just a’passing through…”


This has always caused Christians tension – as believers we are citizen of God’s kingdom / of another world YET we are at the same time called to live “Holy and godly lives” in this world! Christians are not at liberty to withdraw from the world and live in holy huddles NOR are we at liberty to conform to the world and sacrifice our call to holy living.

Peter addresses this tension in his letter – come back to this in weeks to come!!


2.2. Sufferers.


A major theme of this letter is addressing the fact that these Christians are suffering because they are Christians. Not all suffering is because they are Christians. Not all sufferings that Christians endure is because they are Christians.

There is suffering that is simply the common lot of many people.

There is suffering as a result of our own fault and foolishness. [4v15]

There is suffering as a direct result of being a Christian. This is what Peter is addressing in this letter. — come back to this on the weeks ahead!! — as there are vital principles we can learn regarding the hard circumstances of life and how we as Christians are to respond!!


2.3. Saints.


“God’s elect..” – belong to God, his people, his community

1 Peter 2:9

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, ..


Peter doesn’t use the word CHURCH but clearly that is what he is referring to.


To God’s elect, [COMMUNITY – CHURCH]  strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, (NIV)


Paul talks of being “In Christ – in Ephesus — in Corinth etc…”

“Saints” – in the NT is always pl. – no concept in the NT of Christians in isolation – always in community. We are called to the community of God’s people – this becomes our primary relationship, the family of God, the Church.


In 1v3-12 Peter outlines the glory of salvation – anchored in the death and resurrection of Christ it is sure and certain – sustained in the present by the power of the Spirit – assured of an eternal future glory, an inheritance that can not be lost or damaged ——- in v13 he says “Therefore …” and spells out the practical outworking of this glorious salvation .


The “therefore” is the obedience part of the salvation.

In relation ——–

  • to God – “Be holy for he is holy”
  • to church – spiritual family – he spells out how we are to relate to each other. The church is to be God’s witness to the world around – By what it says – YES — but also by what it is. This is to be seen in how we treat each other – demonstrate community – show hospitality — love each other — It is easy to look at the Church and see all the weaknesses — of course they are there! Easy to look at each other and be critical …….. BUT what we need to do is look at these things Peter says and see them as a challenge and vision of what we can be if we commit to God and the community of His people.               REMEMBER that all human institutions and organisation are confined to this world and will come to an end  BUT the Church will last forever – she is Christ’s bride – Does it not make both spiritual and practical sense to commit ourselves wholehearted to that which Christ died for.!!
  • to family – husbands and wives – family life.
  • to colleagues – employers and employee – work environment.
  • to society in general.


Why is it important how we as Christians relate to each other and all these other groups of people?

1 Peter 2:9        9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.


We are to live godly lives right in the midst of a society that for the most part rejects/ ignores God, always ready to give an answer for why we are what we are.

1 Peter 3:15 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (NIV)


1 Peter 2:12 12 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 visits us. (NIV)




Being the people of God – having received his salvation – we are called to live it out in this world despite all the possible difficulties and opposition – and there will be.

BUT Peter reminds us through the letter that









      ² Father   – chose you

      ² Spirit    – changed you

      ² Son       – cleansed / commanded you



      ² Strangers

      ² Sufferers

      ² Saints

                   – in relation to:

                        –  God – Father; Son; Spirit

                        –  Church – community of saints

                        –  Family – husbands/wives

                        –  Colleagues – work environment

                        –  Society – local community

                   – purpose:

                        –  to witness by godly conduct and conversation

                        –  so that God’s glory is shown



 – based on the sure work of Christ on the cross

 – lived out in the present with the sure promise of the Spirit’s help

 – guaranteeing a living, eternal, certain, glorious, future hope


2 thoughts on “1 Peter – “Suffering Saints”: An Introduction and Overview

  1. I am so looking forward to meeting your Dad one day, what a lovely man he must have been. Election and sanctification; now there are words that we don’t hear very often and which made my heart leap. How we need to remind ourselves of our election and ongoing sanctification and what wonderful words to cheer the needy soul! Thankyou!!

    • Thanks. He was a great man and I can’t wait to see him again either! I’m so thankful that we have that eternal hope!

      “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s