Many first-century followers of Christ were suffering and being persecuted for believing in the ways of Jesus Christ. My next post in this year-long journey through The MANual, an NIV Bible for Men, is about the letters attributed to Peter, who knew persecution. Threatened, beaten, and jailed, this apostle knew Christ firsthand so nothing could shake his confidence in the risen Lord. These letters encourage us to the same loyalty to Jesus.
Who Was Peter?
As I wrote in the post, the MANual Lessons in Matthew, Jesus called four fishermen as his first disciples: Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter, along with James and his brother, John. However, there is some contradiction about who Jesus called first. According to John’s version of the calling (John 1:35-42), two disciples were following John the Baptizer. After hearing Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” the two (one of which was Andrew—1:40) followed Him “and remained with Him that day” (1:39). Andrew also brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus at this time (1:40-42). However, the accounts in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11) all indicate that Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John while they were out fishing on the Sea of Galilee.
Regardless of who was called first, the main point is that Simon Peter was among Jesus’s first followers. Though Andrew may have met Jesus first, we know more from the Gospels about Peter as the disciple who changed the most by hanging out with his Savior.
When Jesus first met Peter, this plain fisherman was known as “Simon, son of John”. In eastern and middle-eastern cultures, a person’s identity is more closely associated with his father so Simon’s identity as a fisherman was closely tied to his father’s and likely his father’s father.
Jesus says in John 1:42, “You are Simon, Son of John. You will be called Cephas” (Peter, or Petros in Greek, which means “rock” in Hebrew). In Matthew 16, Jesus affirms why He was referring to him as Simon, but then affirms who he has become by immediately calling him by the name of Peter.
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah [son of John]! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”—Matthew 16:17-18 ESV
Has Jesus Changed Your Life?
Choosing Jesus changes people – even those who fail over and over again. When Jesus entered his life, Simon Peter became a new person with new goals and new priorities. His name change seems to identify a different identity and calling. It is as if Jesus is asking him what his identity is going to be: will it be “Simon, the son of John–the fishermen” or will it be “Peter, the fisher of men.”
- How has becoming a follower of Jesus changed your life?
- If it has not, what holds you back from going “all in”?
- What does it look like to drop your proverbial “fishing net” and make Jesus Lord of your life?
Peter never became a “perfect” disciple and never stopped being “Simon Peter.” He denied knowing Jesus three times. He failed in his discipleship at several crucial moments during Jesus’ lifetime. But Peter went on to become an effective leader of the early church. He was part of Jesus’ “inner circle” with James, and John (the sons of Zebedee), who witnessed things none of the other disciples saw: Jesus raising a dead girl (Mark 5:35–43), The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–13), and Jesus suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36–46).
The Catholic tradition made Peter the first pope and associate him with the foundation of the church in Rome. Most ancient Christian churches consider Peter a major saint. Thousands converted after his sermons. Many attributed miracles to him. The Roman authorities sentenced Peter to death around the time of the great fire in Rome in AD 64, which Emperor Nero blamed on Christians. Peter was crucified upside down at his request since he did not wish to be equated with Jesus.
About Peter’s First Letter
Peter wrote the 5 chapters in his first letter to the Christian church between A.D. 62-64, possibly from Rome. His purpose was to offer encouragement to the suffering Jewish Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor. He addressed the many churches located in the region that is now most of modern-day Turkey where he evangelized to people who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost to hear his powerful sermon (Acts 2:9-11).
Peter begins this letter with a greeting and by thanking God for raising Jesus from the dead so we can have the eternal hope of salvation (1:2-6). He explains that trials will refine their faith (1:7-9) and that salvation is revealed through Christ (1:10-13). He commands them to live a holy life (1:14-16), to fear and trust in God (1:17-21), to be honest and loving (1:22-2:1), and to eventually become more like Christ (2:1-3).
Chapter 2 uses a metaphor of being living stones for God’s house with Jesus as the cornerstone that holds in place the entire structure of our faith. Peter continues with advice for the conduct of God’s people to live above reproach in the midst of suffering. He tells the people to respect all human authority but do not become a slave of unjust treatment. Instead, follow the model of Christ for obedience in our suffering. Jesus did not retaliate against His persecutors but let God judge the unjust fairly.
Chapter 3 describes how wives, husbands, and all Christians should give honor and respect to each other by being of “one mind.”
Respect and Honor in Marriage
1 Peter 3 opens by addressing wives but also strongly addresses Christian husbands, commanding them to give honor and respect to their wives. Peter reminds them of their spouse’s equal standing in God’s eyes; they are co-heirs of His grace. In fact, he warns husbands that their prayers will be hindered if they fail to honor their wives.
- When was the last time you made your wife feel respected and cherished?
- What insights from a good marriage can you gain from a godly couple you know?
- What practical steps can you take to honor your wife?
In chapter 4, Peter outlines the right attitude to have about persecution. He says to expect it (4:12), be thankful for the privilege of suffering for Christ (4:13-18), and trust God for deliverance (4:19).
Peter also includes advice for the elders of the church. Elders should provide supervision, protection, and directions about being good examples to younger believers. He also warns to stay humble and alert for the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Chapter 5 finishes with Peter’s final greeting that includes help from Silas, who would deliver this letter, and John Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark.
About Peter’s Second Letter
The second epistle attributed to Peter is different in both content and style. While 1 Peter teaches about handling persecution (trials from outside the church), the second letter teaches about heresy (trials from within the church). Written about A.D. 67, it comes about three years after the first letter. It comes shortly before the apostle’s death (1:14) so we presume he wrote from Rome. But some disputed Peter as the author, so 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage in the fourth century.
After a brief greeting, the letter gives an antidote for stagnancy and short-sightedness in the Christian life: by continually growing in your faith. (1:2-11). He wrote about what was on his heart, knowing his time on earth was limited (1:12-15), and said believers should listen to his messages and the words of Scripture (1:16-21).
In chapter 2, Peter gives a blunt warning about false teachers who are often subtly deceitful (2:1-22). He knew what would happen after he was gone. He warned the believers to remain vigilant against bad doctrine, heresy, and cult activity. Peter says to make every effort to respond to God’s promises since the evildoers will be judged and punished by God (2:3-10; 20-22).
NOTE: I am deviating just a bit from the MANual’s feature for this chapter that reading God’s Word requires discernment since there are two schools of thought on what is true in the Bible.
Consider the phrases “The Bible is the inerrant Word of God” and “The Bible contains the inspired word of God.”
- Are these statements interchangeable?
- Do you perceive one as absolute truth and one as a subtle suggestion of truth?
Some believe every single word in the Bible is inerrant (incapable of being wrong). My belief though is God inspired the writers of the books of the Bible to provide us guidance on God’s truth. In my opinion, there are some teachings no longer relevant in today’s world such as eating pork and whether women can teach and preach. But there are also some texts that remain absolute truth. These include God’s design for His world, how sin distorted His perfect plan, and how humanity will be restored through Jesus Christ.
But those are discussions for your other posts or within your congregation. I will leave the final decision to God.
Peter concludes his second letter by explaining why he has written (3:1-18): to remind the of the words of the prophets and apostles that predicted the coming of false teachers, to give the reasons for the delay in Christ’s return (3:1-13), and to encourage them to beware of heresies and to grow in their faith (3:14-18).
God Buddy Focus
Today, Christians should be willing and prepared to do God’s will. We will also be questioned, insulted, mocked, and even made fun of at times for following Jesus. We will also encounter false teachers. In these letters, Peter wants us to keep doing what is right and trust that God will never fail us.
Peter does not mean that all suffering is the result of good Christian conduct. He wants us to distinguish between suffering for being a believer and suffering for doing the wrong things. He wants us to discern what is truth.
God assures us that wherever we suffer, He will be with us due to our loyalty to Christ. He simply wants us to continue to grow in our faith and our understanding of how to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.
This week, gather your GodBuddies to discuss:
- Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant or inspired Word of God?
- Discuss 1 and 2 Peter. What insights do you gain from these letters?
- Discuss the effects of becoming stagnant in your spiritual growth.
- What present sufferings are youu encountering?
The next post is about three letters from the apostle John.