Lectionary Year A
May 12, 2002
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11



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).


In this week's epistle passage, we read of reference points by which we seek to 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 things 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.

| Return to gospel listings | Return to epistle listings |
| Return to Old Testament listings | Return to Psalm listings |
| User response form |