Introduction to the First Epistle General of Peter

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Why study this book?

A theme found throughout the First Epistle of Peter is that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Savior’s disciples can faithfully endure and respond to suffering and persecution. Every chapter of 1 Peter speaks of trials or suffering, and Peter taught that patiently enduring trials is “more precious than … gold” and would help believers gain “the salvation of [their] souls” (1 Peter 1:7, 9). Peter also reminded the Saints of their identity as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9). By studying the counsel Peter gave in this epistle, students can receive hope, encouragement, and strength that can help them with the challenges they face.

Who wrote this book?

The author of this epistle is “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1). “Peter was originally known as Simeon or Simon (2 Pet. 1:1), a fisherman of Bethsaida living at Capernaum with his wife. … Peter was called with his brother Andrew to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:18–22; Mark 1:16–18; Luke 5:1–11). …

“… The Lord selected [Peter] to hold the keys of the kingdom on earth (Matt. 16:13–18). …

“Peter was the chief Apostle of his day” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Peter,” scriptures.lds.org).

Peter’s writings demonstrate his growth from a simple fisherman to a mighty Apostle.

When and where was it written?

Peter likely wrote his First Epistle between A.D. 62 and 64. He wrote from “Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13), probably a symbolic reference to Rome.

It is generally accepted that Peter died during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero—likely after A.D. 64, when Nero began to persecute Christians (see Bible Dictionary, “Peter, Epistles of”).

To whom was it written and why?

Peter addressed this epistle to Church members living in the five Roman provinces of Asia Minor, located in modern-day Turkey (see 1 Peter 1:1). Peter considered his readers to be the “elect” of God (1 Peter 1:2). He wrote to strengthen and encourage the Saints in the “trial of [their] faith” (1 Peter 1:7) and to prepare them for a future “fiery trial” (1 Peter 4:12). Peter’s message also taught them how to respond to persecution (see 1 Peter 2:19–23; 3:14–15; 4:13).

Peter’s counsel was very timely because Church members were about to enter a period of heightened persecution. Until approximately A.D. 64, about the time when Peter wrote this epistle, the Roman government generally tolerated Christianity. In July of that year, a fire destroyed much of Rome, and it was rumored that Emperor Nero himself had ordered the fire to be started. In an effort to divert blame for the disaster, some prominent Romans accused the Christians of starting the fire. This led to intense persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Peter indicated that when the Saints “suffer as a Christian” (1 Peter 4:16), they can feel joy knowing that they are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ (see 1 Peter 2:19–23; 3:15–18; 4:12–19).

What are some distinctive features of this book?

In the midst of the affliction and persecution faced by the Saints of his time, Peter exhorted them to turn to one another in love and tenderness (see 1 Peter 1:22; 3:8–9). Furthermore, we read in 1 Peter 5 that Peter explained how Church leaders should strengthen their congregations.

This epistle contains perhaps the clearest biblical references to the spirit world and the work of salvation that takes place there. Peter briefly mentioned that Jesus Christ visited the spirit world to preach to the disobedient spirits who had lived in Noah’s day (see 1 Peter 3:18–20). He added that the gospel was preached to the dead to give deceased individuals the opportunity to be judged on equal terms with the living (see 1 Peter 4:5–6). In our dispensation, President Joseph F. Smith was pondering the meaning of 1 Peter 3:18–20 and 1 Peter 4:6 when he received a revelation clarifying doctrines regarding the spirit world (see D&C 138).

Outline

1 Peter 1:1–2:10 Peter writes of the need for the Saints to grow spiritually in order to receive eternal rewards. The promise of salvation is made possible through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The Saints are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9) who have obtained God’s mercy.

1 Peter 2:11–3:12 Disciples of Jesus Christ seek to honor all men and submit to civil authorities and laws. Peter addresses specific groups of Saints: free citizens, servants, wives, and husbands.

1 Peter 3:13–5:14 When persecution causes the Saints to suffer, they are to remember the example of Jesus Christ, who suffered and then gained exaltation. Jesus Christ preached the gospel to the dead so that they might receive a fair judgment. Church leaders follow the example of Jesus Christ in caring for the flock of God. The Saints are to humble themselves and cast their cares upon God.