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1. Week One—Given an Inheritance

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Words To Live By

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5

Let’s begin this study by reading this week’s verses quoted above. Peter starts his letter with deep truths about what Christ has done for his followers, encouraging those facing hostility because of their faith. Meditate on these words and take them to heart. Each week’s lesson will begin with verses that are good choices to memorize, or at least meditate on.

I have a bundle of letters written to my mother by my father when he was overseas during World War II. They are valuable to our family not only because of my parents’ special relationship but also because he was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean flying bombing runs over Japan. Even more precious to God’s family are the New Testament letters, or epistles, that have endured for approximately 2,000 years. The authors spoke by God’s Spirit to the people of God in the First Century and by extension to us today. How exciting it is that we are able to read the very words inspired by God through the Apostle Peter, who personally knew Jesus, saw his miracles and heard his teaching!

As we study this letter, it’s important to remember that it wasn’t written to us as 21st-century Christians living in a country with democratic norms. Peter’s world was ruled by the Emperors of the Roman Empire. To understand his message, we must first consider what it meant to its recipients by looking at the historical and cultural context. Only then we can apply it correctly to our lives today.

Part One Study

As we go through Peter’s letter, we’ll come to see that “Peter intends his readers to understand who they are before God so that they can be who they are in society,”1 as Scot McKnight puts it. We, too, need to know who we are as Christians, our new identity that we’re called to live out in an often hostile world.

Read Slowly And Carefully Through The NET Bible Translation Of 1 Peter In The Appendix. (If You Don’t Have A Paper Copy, You May Want To Print It Out From Your Downloaded Study.) Note These Repeated Words And Their Synonymous Phrases That Point To The Themes: Suffering, Glory And Doing Good. (Consider Marking The Words As Suggested In The Starred Section Below.) Think About How Those Repeated Words Point To Themes Of This Letter. Write Down Any Thoughts You Have About Those Topics In Your Journal. (These Are Simply Your First Thoughts. You Can’t Be Wrong!) Mark The Purpose Statement Of The Book, 1 Peter 5:12, So That You Can Easily Find It Later.

*** As you read, mark the following three repeated words/phrases to help you discover Peter’s themes. Mark the word “suffering” and its synonyms by circling them in black. Mark the word “glory” by highlighting it in yellow. And finally, mark the phrase “doing good” and phrases with a similar meaning by underlining or highlighting them in green.

Part Two Study

To Understand The Historical Context Of 1 Peter, Read The Short Two-Page Section “Background Of 1 Peter” In The Appendix. Note In Your Journal, Notebook Or On Paper Anything That Is New To You Or That You Want To Remember. Also, Comment On What You Learn About The Term Translated In Various Translations As “Those Temporarily Residing Abroad,” “Exiles,” “Strangers” Or “Aliens” In The Salutation Of The Book In Vv.1-2. Then Add Your Insights Into The Bulleted Questions Below:

  • List the terms and descriptions used by Peter for the recipients of this letter in vv.1-2. Which term referring to believers in Jesus is particularly precious and encouraging to you? Why?

You probably noticed that in 1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter describes those who receive this letter not only as exiles but also as chosen. There are entire books written about the idea that God has selected his children. Denominations have divided over its meaning, but God has decided not to reveal more than the fact that we are chosen. Instead of debating how this works, think about how it feels to be chosen. Perhaps as a student you were picked for an athletic team. Maybe your job experience has been one of being chosen to tackle a specific task or receive a promotion. We’ve all experienced times when we were selected and times when we weren’t.

God has chosen you to be his child, but his choice has nothing to do with your being better than anyone else. He chose you in his mercy simply because he loves you and wants a relationship with you, no matter your past. I often hear people say that God loves you just the way you are, but that is not exactly correct. God loves you despite the way you are. If we truly believe that God selected us regardless of what he knew about us rather than because of it, we would recognize how undeserving we are of his mercy and realize that no one else deserves it either. You and I are not alone. God loves us all despite our sins and failures.

  • What do you sense God saying to you today? (Being a disciple of Jesus is about a relationship with him, not just knowing about God or following a set of rules. We therefore listen for the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts as we read and study God’s Word.)

*** Do further research on the background of this book. I recommend Scot McKnight’s commentary2 as clear and easy to understand. If you prefer a free resource, you might link to Constable’s Notes3 on the entire Bible written by Thomas Constable, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Part Three Study

Now we’ll take a closer look at 1 Peter 1:3-9. This is a statement of praise to God for what he has done for his children. Remember that Peter’s purpose was to encourage these believers facing hostility because of their faith and to testify about the true grace of God so they can stand fast in that grace.

Read 1 Peter 1:3-9, And Record Your Thoughts On These Questions.

  • What does this passage testify about God—who he is and what he has done for us?
  • What does it tell us about the inheritance that we receive because we’ve now been born into God’s family through faith in Jesus? How do these truths encourage you?

You’ve already noticed and possibly marked the words suffering, glory, doing good and all their synonyms. They reflect themes that extend throughout the entire letter written to Christians dealing with hostility from their culture because Jesus and his teachings are counter-cultural. When God’s people say there is one God, those who worship other gods are offended. When followers of Jesus live out the ethics of the kingdom, other people may become hostile because a godly life suggests they are sinful or wrong.

  • What do you learn in vv. 6-7 about the persecution, the trials, that these believers were experiencing?
  • How do you see vv. 8-9 as an encouragement for these Christians dealing with persecution?
  • Do you sense God using these scriptures to speak to you? If so, record your thoughts. What will you do in response?

*** Read James 1:2-4 and Romans 8:18. They aren’t about persecution necessarily but other kinds of hardships and trials. Journal about their application to your life.

It helps me to realize that the Bible tells us that trials that come because of being a Christian—outright persecution or something less that is still difficult—are distressing and yet Peter speaks of joy. (You may want to mark “joy” in a unique way throughout the letter also.) So often as believers we think that living joyfully means an absence of distress, but joy is an inward attitude that doesn’t rule out sorrow, pain or grief. At times it helps me to turn to scriptures such as this chapter in 1 Peter to be reminded of reasons to be joyful. If believers dealing with persecution can be joyful like this, so can you and I. When I begin to wallow in my circumstances, I need to refocus on Jesus and the great things he has done for me, just as Peter encouraged them to do.

End your week’s study with praise to God for all his mercies in your life.

1 Scot McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Peter, Ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 36.

2 Scot McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Peter, Ed. Terry Muck, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,1996).

3 Thomas L. Constable, “Constable’s Notes: 1 Peter.”

Related Topics: Christian Life

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