To a Persecuted Church
Of his later life there are no Scriptural notices other than his two Epistles. From Jesus, word in John 21:18 we judge he must have died a martyr's death. As leader of the Twelve it seems likely that he visited leading Church centers of the Roman World.
Some church historians think there is not sufficient evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. Most of them, however, agree that it is probable that, about the last year of his life, Peter did go to Rome, either by order of Nero, or, of his own accord to help steady the Christians under the terrific blows of Nero's persecutions.
The "Quo Vadis" tradition has it that peter, being overcome by the solicitation of friends to save himself, was fleeing from Rome, and in the night, out on the Appian Way, in a vision, he met Jesus, and said, "Lord, whither goest thou?" Jesus answered, "I am going to Rome to be Crucified again." Peter, utterly ashamed and humiliated,
returned to the city, and was Crucified head downward, feeling not worthy to be Crucified as his Lord was. This is only a tradition, and we do not know how much of historical fact it may contain.
Tradition also has it that Peter's wife, named Concordia, or Perpetua, suffered martyrdom, as Peter encouraged her to be brave, saying, "Remember, dear, our Lord."
To Whom Written
To Churches in Asia Minor (1:1), which, in the main, had been founded by Paul. Though it is not so stated, we presume that Peter had sometime or other visited these Churches. To some of them Paul had written Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians. I Peter has some striking similarities to Ephesians. Later, to some of these Churches John addressed the book of Revelation.
From Whence Written
"Babylon" (5:13). Some take this to be the literal Babylon of the Euphrates. But quite generally it is thought to mean Rome, figuratively called Babylon. In Revelation 17:5, 18 Rome is called Babylon. In those times of persecution, Christians, for prudence' sake, hid to be careful how they spoke of the ruling power, and had a name for it that they, among themselves, but not an outsider, would understand.
Mark was with Peter at the time (5:11); and from II Timothy 4:11, we judge that Mark may have been in Rome about the time this Epistle was written.
Occasion of Writing
Nero's Persecution of Christians, A.D. 64-67, was very severe in and around Rome, but not general over the Empire. However, the example of the Emperor encouraged the enemies of Christians everywhere to take advantage of the slightest pretext to Persecute. It was a trying time. The Church was about 35 years old. It had suffered
Persecutions in various localities at the hands of local authorities. But now Imperial Rome, which had hitherto been indifferent, even in some cases friendly, had accused the Church of a terrible crime, and was undertaking to punish it.
The Church was undergoing a world trial (5:9). It seemed as if the end had come. It was literally t "fiery trial" (4:12). Christians were being burned nightly in Nero's gardens. It did look as if the Devil, as a "roaring lion" (5:8), was about to devour the Church.
It is thought, possibly, that Peter may have written this Letter immediately after Paul's martyrdom, about A.D. 66, and sent it by Silas (5:12), who had been one of Paul's helpers, to these Churches which Paul had founded, to encourage them to bear up under their Suffering, Silas personally carrying the news of Paul's martyrdom to Paul's Churches.
Thus the Epistle was born in the atmosphere of Suffering, shortly before Peter's own martyrdom, exhorting Christians not to think it strange that they had to Suffer, reminding them that Christ did His work by Suffering.
Chapter 1. The Christian's Glorious Inheritance
A Magnificent chapter. Almost every word fraught with precious meaning. "Strangers" (1:1), seems to mean Scattered Jewish Christians. But 2:10 indicates they were, mainly, Gentiles. Peter addresses them as Sojourners, Pilgrims, Citizens of Another World, living for a little while in This World, away from Home, Journeying along toward their Home Land.
Suffering and Glory (1:7). The greater our Suffering in This World the greeter will be our Glory in the Next World. Trials here, Glory at the Coming of the Lord (1:7). Again and again Suffering and Glory are paired. The Sufferings of Christ, and the Glory that should follow (1:11). Partakers of Christ's Sufferings will Rejoice with Exceeding Joy at the Revelation of His Glory (4:13). Peter, a witness of Christ's Suffering, will be a partaker of His Glory (5:1). After you have Suffered a while, Eternal Glory (5:10). This
was also Paul's comfort: Our Light Affliction works for us a far more exceeding and Eternal Weight of Glory (II Corinthians 4:17).
"Precious," a favorite word with Peter. Trial of Faith more Precious than gold (1:7). Redeemed with the Precious Blood of Christ (2:19). Precious Lord (2:4, 7). Precious Faith (II Peter 1:1). Great and Precious Promises (II Peter 1:4).
Christ, Himself, Personally, Whom, not having seen, you Love (1:8), in Whom you Rejoice with Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory (1:8), by Whose Power you are Kept for Final Salvation (1:5)-Christ Himself is the Center of Heaven's Glory (1:3-9). Set
your Hope perfectly on HIM and His Coming (1:13).
Chapters 2, 3. The Christian's Earthly Pilgrimage
Christians, Born into a Glorious Inheritance, by the Word of God (1:23), in Journeying along through this world toward their Heavenly Home Land, still, for Nourishment, Guidance, and Strength, need constantly to Feed on God's Word (2:2); thus, along the way, Tasting and Experiencing that their precious Lord, by their side, is Gracious, Kind, Loving and Helpful, as He leads them onward (2:2, 3).
Pilgrims (2:11), Elect, Holy (2:9), a people of Good Works (2:12; 3:13), who, by their Manner of Life, Glorify God (3:16).It reminds us of Jesus' word (in Matthew 5:14-16), that the Light of the World is the Good Works of His Disciples.
Be a Good Citizen, or Subject, as far as possible, of the Earthly Government under which you live, Law-Abiding and Obedient, to promote the.good name of your religion, even though the Government be headed by a Nero (2:13-17).
Christian Servants (2:18-25). There were many Slaves in the first century Church. They are exhorted to be Good Slaves, even to brutal masters, and to endure, without resentment, any suffering wrongfully administered.
Christian Wives (3:1-6). "Calling him Lord" (6), surely is not to be construed as meaning abject slavery to her husband, but rather unselfish devotion, so as to win his admiration and affection, and, if he is an unbeliever, by her loving tact, win him to Christ. We do not understand verses 3-4 to prohibit a woman's desire to be attractive
in personal appearance, but rather a caution against overdoing it, remembering that no amount of finery can be a substitute for gracious Christian Personality. (See further on Ephesians 5:22-33.)
Christian Husbands (3-7). It is Manly to be Tender toward the gentler sex. God's plan is that Marital Love be Mutual, each considerate of the other. If either has a mean disposition or tongue, that makes it all the harder for the other to be considerate. "That
your Prayers be not hindered" (7). Nothing extinguishes the flame of Prayer like marital friction.
Christ Preached to Spirits in Prison (3:18-22). This passage seems to say that Jesus, in the interval between His death and resurrection, preached to the imprisoned spirits of the disobedient of Noah's day. Or, it may mean that the Spirit of Christ was in Noah Preaching to the antediluvians.
Chapters 4, 5. The Fiery Trial
Be Armed for Suffering (4:l-6). It was a time of Persecution. The special exhortation of this Epistle was for Christians to be ready for it. But there is comfort here for Christians who live in normal times; for very few people get through life without a good deal of Suffering of one kind or another: physical suffering, mental suffering, heart
suffering. One of the strange ways of Providence is that many people have to suffer in the very way in which they would rather not have to suffer, have to go through life denied the one thing that most of all they would rather not be denied. Such people may very properly comfort themselves in the assurance that when God is bearing down
extra hard in His grinding it is that the finished diamond may be extra bright and beautiful.
Christian Love (4:7-11), the Supreme Virtue of Life. Peter's exhortations to Love are beautiful. Love one another from the Heart Fervently (1:22). Honor all men; Love the Brotherhood (2:17). Loving as Brothers, Tenderhearted (3:8). Above all things being Fervent in your Love among yourselves (4:8). Brothers in a common Glorious Hope, be real Brothers to one another in time of Suffering.
The Fiery Trial (4:12-19). Nero's Persecution of Christians was the direct work of the Devil (5:8). Nevertheless, in the mysterious Providence of God, it would turn out for the good of the Church, a Trial more Precious than gold (1:7). There have been many Persecutions since, many of them more brutal and widespread than Nero's, in which unnumbered millions of Christians have endured every conceivable kind of torture. When we think of this we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for our fretfulness over our petty troubles.
Peter's Humility (5:1-7) is discernable in this section.
Mark (13), was with Peter at the time. He is thought to have written his Gospel under Peter's direction, possibly about the time Peter wrote this Epistle.