Lectionary Year A
May 12, 2002
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
(JFC) A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
Earlier verses in chapter 4 begin with a reference to Christ's suffering.
Thereafter they remind the readers/hearers how they have sinned like "the
Gentiles" by licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing and
lawless idolatry." They will be judged for their misbehavior. Then, verse
6 recalls Jesus' descending to preach to those disobedient as far back as
Noah's time. Verses 7 - 11, after an introductory eschatological premise,
advise specific good behavior. They conclude with a doxology. Then, 4:15
- 19 admonish us more about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and
suffering for good reasons and for bad.
Verses in chapter 5 leading up to our text exhort elders to tend to
the flock properly, as God would have it. That paragraph ends by
cautioning those the elders oversee to accept their oversight humbly. It
says God blesses the humble. Good transition into our pericope.
Thereafter, 1 Peter concludes with a final greeting and a capsule
statement of the purpose of this short letter and an exchange of greetings
with sister church(es).
(JFC) B. COMPOSITIONAL WHOLE
In this week's epistle passage, we read of reference points by which we
keep suffering and rejoicing in proper balance. The notion of "humbling
oneself" might afford a reader/hearer in the early centuries to observe as
objectively as this letter is penned the differences in suffering with
Christ, in suffering for Christ, and in finding fulfillment therein. The
metaphor of the prowling lion and the devil might suggest the urgency the
author(s) felt regarding the necessity of enduring the suffering while it lasts
and to envision beyond it into celebrating the God who deserves accolades.
John Wick Bowman calls these chapters, "the hortatory and didactic portion
of the epistle". Neophyte Christians need such guidance, advice and
encouragement. Such catechetical instructions are survival tactics for
young converts surrounded by such varieties of secular and quasi-religious
cults. The frequent retracing of suffering, short-termed though it
promises to be, suffering with Christ, withstanding it with God's help and
rejoicing and praising God repeats itself twice in the verses that comprise
the lection for this week. It is readily discerned throughout 1 Peter.
Today's pericope might represent the final time the author(s) had to say,
yet again, what are the most important parts of an infant faith.
The author(s) of these paragraphs must have sensed the testing quality of
they thought, at first, strange. Upon further considerations, they could
relieve readers/hearers of this epistle of some anxieties they experienced
as victims of non-Christians' ridicule. The author(s) must have developed
a strong trust in God, a deep identity with Christ's passion and an
awareness of God's Spirit. They must have known first hand of suffering,
wrongdoers' antics, evil run rampant, and temptations' threatening even
believers to throw in the towel. Even so, their identity is still a
mystery. See previous week's essays on this topic.
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