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The Purpose of 1 Peter

Why was 1 Peter written?  To me this is the first major question that has to be answered as we interpret the book of 1 Peter.  Once we can identify the overall purpose of the book, then we can better understand how each section fits within the purpose.

Peter’s Answer

1 Peter is one of the few books of the Bible that gives us immediate help in recovering its purpose.  The help is found in that fact the author states clearly why he has written.

I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God.  Stand firm in it!-1 Peter 5:12

Thus, 1 Peter is a call to confidence and faithfulness.  He wants them to be fully assured that Christianity is where God’s grace is found, and therefore not leave the faith.  Reading between the lines it seems that the Christians Peter was addressing were doubting this fact.

The Situation

This brings us to the next logical question, “why?”  Why would they doubt that Christianity was where the true “grace of God” is found? The answer is again found in the book.

Throughout 1 Peter we have the reoccurring theme of suffering.  In fact, Peter describes his readers current situation as a “fiery trial.”  From start to finish the motif of suffering is seen.  Peter states they are called to “do good and suffer.”  He reminds them of the suffering of Jesus.  He tells them of some of the benefits of suffering.  All of this to help the people understand that the presence of suffering does not mean that they are outside of God’s grace.

Accomplishing the Purpose

The purpose of Peter is accomplish by changing the focus of the readers.  They seem to be focused on their “present suffering.”  Peter wants them to re-adjust their eyes.  This re-adjustment will allow them to “stand firm in God’s grace.” There are two focuses Peter wants them to have:

1. Focus on Salvation.  This has to do with the past, present, and future aspects of salvation.  In the past they need to realize how the salvation they have received was longed for by those who went before.  In the present they need to realize that their salvation came with a calling, and that calling includes suffering.  In the future they need to realize that God has something greater in store from them that no person can take away.

2. Focus on conduct.  The conduct Peter wants them to display falls into two categories.  First, they need to be holy.  Despite the suffering they are facing they need to be committed to living holy lives.   Second, Peter wants them to focus on submission.  Christian conduct is tied with submission.

Conclusion

1 Peter is written to a church that is facing serious trials.  The trials that they are facing have them doubting that they are truly in God’s grace (i.e. favor).  Peter writes to affirm that they are in God’s grace and they need to stand firm in it by focusing on the future salvation, their present conduct, their need for submission, and the truth of their calling.
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