Exegetical Notes for 1 Peter 1:3-9



Step One – Initial Acquaintance

Contemporary Translations:


1 Peter 1:3                          

NIV         Praise be to the God….              

NRSV      Blessed be the God….        

Message   What a God we have….


1 Peter 1:5

NIV          Who through faith are shielded….

NRSV       Who are being protected

Message    God is keeping careful watch over us and the future…


1 Peter 1:7

Message   Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put      through this comes out genuine.  This suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s     your faith not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.


1 Peter 1:9

NIV            For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of our souls.

NRSV         For you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Message     Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to:  

                   Total salvation.     


Rough Translation:

Praise God the father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Through his unlimited mercy he has given us new life through the ressurection of Jesus Christ into a living hope, and a share of God’s rich blessings that can never perish, spoil or fade preserved in heaven for you.  God’s power shields those who have faith until the coming of salvation that is ready to be unveiled in the end time.  Therefore, celebrate, even if you have to suffer a little under many sorts of trials, so that the testing of your faith, many more times precious than gold – which can deteriorate, which is also tested by fire – may be worth celebrating when Jesus Christ is manifested.  Although you have not seen him, you love him.  You do not have the opportunity to observe him, but through faith in him, you rejoice in him with a pleasure that is hard to put into words, as you are about to reach the goal of your faith, which is your salvation.


Step Two – Distillation:

Genre:  This is letter written to a handful of congregations scattered throughout Asia Minor.  Probably Gentile Christians who had been catechized with a strong appreciation of Judaism since the author includes a heavy dose of Exodus imagery, which goes to an expectation that they would understand it.  1 The 7 verses in question here are difficult for speech because it is one long sentence full of words packed with meaning.  One clause is joined to another by prepositions.  Bo Reicke indicates this was characteristic of an elaborate style of Greek Rhetoric. 2 The way he words it makes it sound as if it was inspirational writing – ecstasy.


Personal Interaction: The text is written to people who understood themselves to be strangers or exiles in their community.  They were in this state because God chose them or called out or set them apart for the work of the gospel? What does this text say then to those attempting to be faithful to the gospel in a culture that is hostile to it?  What is a new birth into a living hope?  What is the substance of our faith and hope? What does the author refer to when he talks about hope and faith in the midst of suffering? This is where the text hits me hardest.  He says that we have this inheritance and that it should be the source of our faith and hope in times when we suffer? In regard to the inheritance, what are the gifts God has given us? What are the riches belonging to those who are legally are and heir of God’s promises?  How does this effect the way we live?  If we have this great spiritual wealth why then do we live such spiritually poor lives?  How does God shield and protect us?  There is a lot about suffering here.  How does Peter address the subject throughout the whole letter?  The salvation of our souls is a strong phrase – he says it is the goal of our faith.  Does this mean we can lose our salvation?  Does this mean that our salvation is a work in process?  He talks about a joy that is beyond words.  Do we have a joy in us from having a new birth and living hope so strong that words fail to describe it? Seems as if to me we are rather stagnant and dead in our joy.  There is a lot of passion here that is missing in the church.  In a sense we are exiles in the world.  But in another sense we have so little commitment and have so twisted the faith to suit our purposes that we don’t get much friction?  What are the values and lifestyles of a Christian that our culture finds less than appealing? Is joy possible in the midst of suffering?  The thing that occurs to me is that we don’t realize how rich we really are.  God has blessed us so much and is providing manna for us every day we just don’t realize it because we are not paying attention?  What would it be like to begin to live our lives out of the abundance of God’s blessings as opposed to living out of the scarcity of our own personal resources?


Organization:  The answers to these questions are found in several places. For the most part they are found in Steps 3-5.



Step 3 – Composition

Immediate context: The text follows the short greeting at the beginning of the letter.  The introduction is important for the interpretation of the text.  Peter states they are exiles because God has chosen them.  God has chosen them in three ways: 1) Through foreknowledge; 2) through the work of the spirit; 3) the blood of Jesus.  Though they are exiles they have Grace and Peace in abundance.  All of this is an occasion to praise God. Therefore verses 3-10 display an ecstatic manifestation of their abundance.  These 7 verses are really best read with verse 10-12.  Verses 10-12 are a part of the continuation of the thoughts begun in verse 10.  In verse 13 Peter begins an exhortation to live holy lives.


Organizational Whole: The letter is a short letter.  These 7 verses found in verses 3-10 provide the theological foundation for the text as a whole. In these verses Peter describes the new life we have in Christ in it’s fullness.  The whole letter is a call to stand firm and to rejoice in the trials we suffer so that our hostile culture will see Christ in us.    The blessings described in verses 3-10 are the resources God has made available to us to make it possible to stand firm.


Issues of authorship: There is great debate about who wrote this letter.   If it was written by Peter it was written between 60-63; but more than likely, according to Raymond Brown, it was written between 70-90.  Of all the Catholic Epistles, 1 Peter has the best chance of being written by Peter. The soundest argument for this contention is the knowledge of Jesus’ words shown in the work.  On the other hand, a closer examination of the persecution of Christians in Asia Minor seems to deem it was written later. As well, it is hard to imagine that by 60 they could have developed the congregations in Asia Minor.  The purpose of the letter was to encourage Gentile Christians who were encouraging local hostility from non-Christians who treated them as evil-doers (2:12), defamed their conduct (3:16), vilified them (4:4), and insulted them b/c of their belief in Christ. 3 Note Brown’s comments about the recipients being  characterized as homeless and sojourners (1:1,17 and 2:11) – “They are like Israel in the exodus on the road to the Promised Land; they should not look back to their former status as did the Israelites (1:14), but press on to their imperishable inheritance (1:4).” 4



Step Four – Context

Primitive Christianity:   While the letter speaks of their exiled status.  The letter does not condemn the world.  It is not nearly as harsh as Revelation or of the 1,2,3 John.  In fact, in the letter it encourages the congregations to respect the government. There seems to be a hopeful feeling in the letter that the world could be saved.  They are sectarian but not counter cultural.  This seems to suggest that the suffering they were enduring was from local hostilities.  This implies that they were not under persecution for not worshipping the emperor.  The use of the inheritance language is used in other places in the New Testament. 


(Mat 25:34 NIV)  "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.


(Rom 8:17 NIV)  Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.


(Gal 4:7 NIV)  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.


(Eph 1:13 NIV)  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,  who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.


(Col 1:10-12 NIV)  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.


(Col 3:24 NIV)  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.


(Heb 9:15 NIV)  For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.



Old Testament and Judaism:   First Peter is permeated with Old Testament imagery.  The idea that the church is Israel is a dominating metaphor throughout the letter.  Strongly apparent is the adoption of the exile language of the Babylonian Exile. Interestingly the author states that it was written from a sister church in Babylon.  For the author of this letter the Old Testament was not written to point to Israel but to point to Christ.  Hence we read this in 1 Peter 1:10-12.  There is a heavy use of the suffering servant imagery in Isaiah 40 throughout the letter. In the text in question there seems to be a direct link between Isaiah 40:5 and 1 Peter 4:7.  The Jewish/Gentile controversies was so much a part of Paul’s letters are not present here.   Gentiles are viewed as non Christians in the text.


Hellenistic World:  The letter is addressed to five congregations in Asia Minor.  It is assumed that the letter would have been circulated in the order in which they were listed. It is obvious from the letter that these congregations were experiencing some hostility.  There are many theories about the persecution they were enduring when the letter was written. Most likely they were not experiencing persecution from the Roman government – for a failure to give into emperor worship.  Rather they were suffering from local hostility.  They were probably people who became Christians and then this caused them to change their behavior thus bringing criticism.   They were then like the exiles in Babylon.


Step Five – Distillation

Salient Features: The NIB lists several distinctive theological features in 1 Peter. 1) God.  1 Peter is the only place in the New Testament where God is listed as creator. (4:19)  The letter presupposes that all of history, from beginning to end is in God’s hands.  2) Christ.  Christ for first Peter is the divine figure who brings people to God.  This is made possible through his death and resurrection from the dead.  The suffering of Christ is our example for what it means to be faithful.  His ressurection lets us know that we will be rewarded and vindicated as was Christ. 3) Suffering.  The Christians in Asia minor were suffering.  The letter was written to encourage them.  4) Baptism.  There is only one reference to baptism in the letter in 1 Peter 3:18-21.  However, much of the letter sounds like it was written for new Christians – like a catechism.  5) Life in Exile. As stated, “Finally, Christians are exhorted to be exemplary aliens in the land that does not welcome them.  This means that they are to be as upright as the most upright of their neighbors.  More than that, they are to forge for themselves an identity that sets them apart without necessarily setting them in conflict with their pagan neighbors.  They are to return God for evil, blessing for slander – hoping perhaps against hope, that in the judgment their very fidelity may shame their slanderers into believing.” 5   “…The epistle helps to strengthen Christians in times of distress; sets their lives within the history of God’s activity; which moves from creation to consummation; holds up the atoning death of Jesus Christ; and encourages mutual love among Christian people and forbearance of their enemies.” 6


Hermeneutical Bridge:  Possible themes for preaching that jump out at me include.  1) A look at what it means to have faith in times of distress. 2) The source and foundation for our hope as Christians.  3) The blessings of the inheritance we have in Christ.  4) A look at suffering and the role it plays in the development of our faith. 5) The new birth that we have in Christ that gives us a living hope. 6) What it means to be a Christian in today’s world. The sermon would be about encouragement. 7) Whatever direction the sermon takes it will deal with the theme of encouragement.


Step Six – Contemporary Address

Description of Audience: Our congregation has just celebrated Easter.  There will be a let down this Sunday after such a busy period at the church during Lent.  Addressing the congregation, as strangers in this world could be difficult.  Our community is church heavy.  However, to some degree the gospel stands in opposition to the church culture here.  Our church culture is very American and conservative and self-promoting.


Goals for address: 1) Since this is the first selection in a series from First Peter in the lectionary it is important to familiarize the congregation with the broader themes of the letter.  They have heard few sermons from First Peter if any from the pulpit as a primary text.  2) The second goal for the address will be to explore the rich themes present in the text at hand. 3) The third goal will be to describe the inheritance we have in Christ.



1 Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond  Brown, p. 720

2 The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude, Anchor Bible Series, Bo Reicke,  page 79

3. Brown, pp. 713-714

4. Ibid., page 722-723.

5. New Interpreters Bible, Volume XII, pp. 240-241

6. Ibid., p 233.