First Peter was written by Jesus‘ disciple, Peter. It’s audience was Gentile (that is non-Hebrew) followers of Jesus, joining together many aspects of the Jewish history with Christian beliefs.
This book is a warm and attractive read that is ideal for those who have just begun to follow Jesus, yet it’s equally instructive for more seasoned followers, as well.
A reoccurring theme in this book is suffering. This concept may be antithetical to the popular notion that in effect says, “follow Jesus and life will be easy.” This attitude is a social gospel that isn’t supported by the Bible. In truth there may be risk and suffering for those who follow Jesus.
The literary style of the letter is that of a last will and testament of Peter to the church. This was not done to ensure Peter’s place in history but instead as a final, lasting effort to teach, guide, and encourage the followers of Jesus before Peter died.
Jesus shared a story (parable) about forgiving others.
Jesus’ illustration was prompted by Peter, who asked if forgiving someone seven times was enough; Peter thought seven times was generous. Jesus upped the figure considerably, saying seventy-seven times. But we don’t take this amount literally, instead understanding that Jesus really meant we need to forgive others “more times than we can count” or “without limit.”
Jesus’ story, however, takes the idea of forgiveness to another level. A man, who owed a huge debt he could never repay, begged for mercy, for more time to make payment. But instead of receiving additional time, the debt was forgiven.
But then the man threatened someone who owed him a tiny bit of money. No mercy was given; no forgiveness was offered. He withheld from others what had been given to him.
Because of the man’s selfishness and not treating others as he was treated, his debt was reinstated and he was thrown into prison and tortured. Our fate will be no different if we don’t forgive others.
We, who have been forgiven much by God, need to likewise forgive others. The risk of withholding forgiveness is too great.
Last week we talked about Simon Peter, a guy with two names. Another man with two names is John Mark. Unlike Abraham and Sarah who received new identities from God and Peter who got his second name from Jesus, the origin of John Mark’s two names seems to lack divine origin.
Perhaps his parents gave him one name at birth and his other label, a nickname bestowed by friends. Maybe he needed two names to avoid confusion with other guys named John and other dudes called Mark.
Regardless John Mark’s dual name does not seem to have any spiritual significance, but to simply be practical.
Sometimes the Bible refers to him as Simon (47 times) and other times Simon Peter (33 times) but mostly just Peter (139 times).
Peter was the first leader of Jesus’ followers, so calling him “rock” fits. Perhaps Jesus gave Peter a new name to preview his future as a leader.
Even more interesting is a play on words Jesus uses in Matthew 16:16-18. The implication isn’t apparent in most versions of the Bible, but the Amplified Bible captures it nicely (even throwing in some Greek to make sure we don’t miss it).
Peter (Petros, “a large piece of rock,” essentially a rock) gives a proclamation (Petra, “a huge rock like Gibraltar,” essentially the rock) saying Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus affirms Peter’s words, declaring them to be the foundation on which he will build his church.
Peter is not the foundation, but his testimony is.
Preceding Events: The Holy Spirit arrives and empowers the disciples to speak in other languages. Unable to comprehend what is happening, some in the crowd conclude that the disciples are drunk. (This may be the original source for the phrase “drunk on the Holy Spirit.”)
Overall Theme: Jesus died but is alive again – and he is Lord
There are a number of “sermons” (teachings, messages, proclamations) found in the book of Acts. While the definition of what constitutes a sermon and the precise number of them may be open for debate, I put the number at eleven.
There are three from Peter, one from Stephen, and seven from Paul:
In the next posts these eleven sermons in Acts will be summarized.
(There are many other shorter teachings and words uttered by the apostles that are recorded in the book of Acts. These are also worthy of consideration, but only longer messages that are delivered in public settings will be discussed. Also, keep in mind that many of the letters recorded in the New Testament are written sermons.)
Exploring the Biblical Narrative with Peter DeHaan