Introducing 1 Peter: Basic Structure

26 Feb

Peter’s approach to answering this question of how to live for God in a world that is against us is fairly straightforward.

We might look to commentaries for more detailed and academic type outlines, but I thought I could give you one more designed for the nitty gritty reality of everyday life.

Peter’s basic answer to the question of living for God in world that is against Him, begins first with knowing who you are.

 1.         You have to know who you are even when the  people around you don’t

         1:1-2:10

                  1:1-2                  You are Chosen

                  1:3-12                You are Going to be Saved

                  1:13-2:3             You are Called to be Different            

                  2:4-10                You are Beloved by God

It continues then with knowing your responsibilities, which we’ll break down into two over-arching sections. 

2.         You have to know what God wants even when the people around you are doing what He hates

         2:11-4:11

                  2:11-12         Your mission

                  2:13-4:11         Your strategy

                           *         Submit even when people don’t  deserve it                 

                                             2:13-3:7

                           *         Do good to people who are doing  evil                          

                                             3:8-4:6

                           *         Devote yourself to the spiritual  good of the church

                                             4:7-11

3.         You have to know how to react even when  the people around you attack

                  4:12 to the end of the book

                  4:12-4:19         Do right and trust God. 

                  5:1-5                  Shepherd the church and submit to godly leadership.

                  5:6-7                  Humble yourself and rely  on God in prayer.

                  5:7-11                Stay serious, stand strong, watch out and resist the                                               devil.

Instead of dealing with the kinds of questions that interest us when it comes to suffering like why we suffer and all that, Peter focuses on something that he thinks is more significant, how we can honor God in the midst of suffering and at the heart of his answer is the cross, which is so important to understand and I don’t want you to miss, while I have given you a basic outline of 1 Peter, the one thing that outline misses that I want to emphasize is that at the heart of Peter’s answer is the cross. 

Peter takes us to the cross as an example of how we are to live for God in a world that is against Him.  Jesus’ death on the cross is much more than an example, but Peter here is using him as an example.  The main point in 1 Peter is how to respond to all the unjust suffering we experience in this world and for Peter if you want to understand how to respond to unjust suffering in this world, you have to look to Jesus’ death on the cross. 

1 Peter 2:19ff, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”

1 Peter 3:17,18 “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffering for doing what is right rather than doing what is wrong.  For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”

1 Peter 4:1, “Therefore since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with this purpose. . .”

1 Peter 4:12ff, “Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.”

I think we as Christians if we are going to understand suffering, understand the way Peter makes his argument, structures his answer to the question how do we live for God in a world that is against Him, we have to take seriously the fact that our leader, the person we are claiming to follow, the one we say we are modeling our lives after, died on a cross.  We have to take seriously the fact that the New Testament does not only hold out Jesus’ death on the cross as the means of our salvation, it also holds out his example as a pattern for us to follow, which is as you know, intense stuff.  

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