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The Writings of Peter - Part I

The Writings of Peter

Part 1

This is the first in an eight-part series of messages on the Biblical writings of the apostle Peter.

There are two letters in the New Testament he wrote. The first is divided into five chapters. The second contains three chapters.

Not all the verses in all those chapters will be discussed, but through this series, we will gain a good understanding of what Peter taught in his two New Testament letters.

In this message, chapter 1 of I Peter. But first, let’s think about who Peter was.

There is much information about Peter, most especially in the Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament. It would, I am sure, take probably another eight messages to cover it all, which will not be done. So here is a summary of who Peter was, including a few of the things he did. Again, this is not an exhaustive description, but it will provide a good list of things to know about Peter.

Before his time with Jesus, Peter was a fisherman. So, too, was his brother Andrew a fisherman. They worked together in their fishing business. 

One day, as they cast their nets into the sea - the Sea of Galilee - not too far from shore,  Jesus walked by. Seeing the two brothers, He called out to them. Jesus’ message was short. It began with just two words. “Follow Me.” He added, “I will make you fishers of men.”

I doubt the explanation made much sense to Peter and Andrew. I mean, fish caught could be sold. That was how they had been making a living. Fishing for men? Men could not be sold. So what was the point?

Jesus’ words could not have made sense, but there was apparently something about how Jesus said those words that attracted the attention of the two fishermen because immediately Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus. No selling of their nets. No time taken to go home and figure out how much money they may have stashed somewhere and get it. No discussion of what they were going to do to make a living without fishing. Jesus invited them to follow Him. Right away, Peter and Andrew did just that.

There were other men also invited to follow Jesus. Among them were some more fishermen, and a tax collector, and one known as a Zealot, who was a fiery man in favor of all things Jewish against anything the Roman Empire wanted. There was also a man invited who was good at keeping whatever money the group had. Unfortunately, that man - Judas Iscariot - proved to be less than good. He embezzled some of the funds. That was not his only evil. Judas would go on to betray Jesus, doing that before killing himself.

Altogether, Jesus called twelve men to follow Him, all of whom accepted the invitation. That group included Peter, who was often known for his impulsive behavior.

Two examples of that. 

One night, the disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Soon a storm came up. A strong storm, causing waves to beat against the boat. The sense of the record of this incident is that the boat was in danger of capsizing.

Jesus, who was not with the disciples in the boat, noticed from the shore what was happening. He knew the disciples were in danger, so He went to them, walking on the water to get to them. Walking on the water was of course a miracle, made even more spectacular because of the storm.

When Jesus arrived at the boat, the disciples were terrified. They did not recognize Jesus. They thought He was a ghost. But immediately Jesus told them to not be afraid. It was Him and He had come to save them.

Peter is the one who answered Jesus. “Lord, if it is You, bid me to come to You on the water.”

That may have been a hollow proposition, but Jesus said, “Come.” Whether Peter really wanted to leave the boat, I do not know, but impulsively, he answered Jesus by stepping from the boat onto the water.

What an amazing sensation that was. A sensation that lasted until Peter, impulsively, took his eyes off Jesus, causing him to remember the storm, at which time Peter began to sink.

The danger of that was quickly relieved. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me.” Which Jesus did, after which the storm suddenly died.

Quite some time later, toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus met with His disciples and explained to them He was about to suffer. In fact, that very night He was going to be arrested, which would lead to some trials, the result of which would be His crucifixion.

When Peter heard the prediction, he impulsively promised that if Jesus was to die, he was ready to die as well. Peter promised to stay with Jesus to death if that was going to happen. That was how brave and loyal Peter promised to be. Even when Jesus added the prediction that Peter would, that very night, deny Jesus three times, Peter continued to promise his complete loyalty.

A few hours later, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He was confronted by a crowd ready to arrest Him and take Him away. With Jesus were Peter and most of the other disciples. Peter at first stayed with Jesus, and he impulsively took a sword and cut off one of the ears of one in the crowd.

But soon after that - after Jesus stopped the violence and healed the one who lost the ear - Peter turned and ran away.

Sometime after that, Peter did indeed deny Jesus three times, claiming he did not know Jesus or anything about Jesus.

Peter’s denial greatly saddened him, especially since, just a short time earlier, he had been so confident in his ability to stay with Jesus. 

But listen to this. On the third day after being crucified, Jesus rose from the tomb, once again alive. Jesus wanted to see all the disciples. All but Judas, who had killed himself. Jesus wanted to see the disciples. But there was one He identified by name. “Tell the disciples and Peter.”

What a message of redemption. Yes, Peter had fallen short of what he had promised. He had fallen short of what Jesus might have hoped for. But Jesus still loved him and still had things for Peter to do.

That included being an extremely powerful, effective preacher. Listen to this from the Book of Acts. After one of Peter’s sermons, 3000 people accepted Jesus as Savior. Another time, in conjunction with John, 5000 people accepted Jesus after a sermon.

After that, through much of the first half of the Book of Acts and occasionally after that, Peter is still described as a very active and effective minister for Jesus, which means he took advantage of the redemption offered to him by Jesus. 

There is much more that could be said about Peter, but what has been presented hopefully gives an adequate summary of who he was and what he did. In addition to everything else, Peter did write two letters that are included in the New Testament.

Let’s delve into chapter 1 of I Peter.

Verses 1 through 3.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Not Peter, the one who had walked on water, or the one who drew a sword the night Jesus was arrested, or the one who converted thousands of people with his sermons, but “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” An apostle - a representative - of Jesus. One who spoke, not his own message, but the message of Jesus.

What a humble attitude Peter had when he wrote his first letter. Other than giving his name, he wanted to be known simply as a messenger of Jesus - Jesus, who had died so others could be saved, the one who had redeemed Peter.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the exiles of the Dispersion.” Exiles means the people to whom Peter wrote had been forced to leave their homes. The Dispersion means those people had been scattered far and wide. Scattered to the areas listed - Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, made up mostly of what is today Turkey, north of Israel.

Who were these exiles? The word Dispersion at one time referred to Jews who were forced to other areas. Here it refers to Christians who had been forced to flee for safety, sometimes for their very lives against persecution of Christians. As will come up later in this series of messages, horrible persecution was about to be faced by those to whom Peter wrote. Peter knew that and warned the people about it, but there had already been persecution, which had caused those people to already be exiled.

Physically, being dispersed exiles was difficult, but spiritually, listen to how Peter described them. 


A number of years ago I had the opportunity to hear Bob Benson speak. He has since passed away from a number of illnesses, including illnesses he had when I heard him speak. Because of his physical condition, he was not very mobile when he talked. He was very soft spoken and spoke slowly. But his stories were wonderful, such as this one I have read in a book he wrote.

Even as a kid, Bob Benson was sickly. He was small. Even as an adult, he could remember what it felt like in grade school when the two biggest and strongest kids in the class were made the captains of the softball teams for the class at recess times. One by one each other kid was chosen for athleticism or friendship or size. Everyone was always picked - except Bob.

Each time, the teacher would say the game could not start until someone took Bob. each time, one of the captains would kick the dirt and say in disgust, “We’ll take him.” Then the games could start.

Bob says he was never chosen for much of anything else either. So imagine his surprise - his joy - when he read that spiritually, God is the chooser who chose him - even without being forced to do so.

Here is what Bob wrote. Bob liked to use lots of words. Bob wrote, “God saw me and called me and selected me and picked me and singled me out and decided on me and opted for me and determined in favor of me and preferred me. He did not refuse me or reject me or repudiate me or spurn me or dismiss me or exclude me, nor did He ignore me, disregard me, cast me away, throw me aside, or leave me out. Nor was His choosing obligatory or mandatory or required or called for or deserved or forced on Him. I was His open, voluntary, willful, selective, deliberate, intentional choice. Out of His devotion, tenderness, affection, and love, He chose me.”

As Bob Benson concludes the writing on being chosen, he added, “Being chosen by God made all the difference in my life.”

I imagine that was also the feeling for the exiles of the Dispersion.

“Chosen by God.” The root word refers to anything specially chosen, such as fruit chosen because it is exceptionally good or maybe a piece of furniture because the builder did an excellent job or soldiers chosen for a great exploit because of great skill. Peter’s point is that God chose the exiles of the Dispersion because God knew they were special. That He would make them special.

“Destined by God.” Destined for eternity. Destined to be able to face persecution and survive.

Peter used the words “chosen” and “destined” to encourage the Christians to whom he wrote. The encouragement was for them to stay true. True to God, whose idea it was for the people to have a good relationship with Him. And to the Spirit, whose role was to sanctify those Christians. To sanctify means to be set aside for some special purpose. In the case of this passage, set aside for obedience. And to Jesus, who was to be obeyed. Everything the Lord taught was to be known and obeyed, even in the face of persecution.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, reminded Christians who had been scattered that they were special people, chosen by God to be destined to stay true to God and the Holy Spirit and Jesus. That is what Peter wrote in his introduction to his first letter. That and expressing his wish for his audience to have two things. “Grace” and “peace.” 

Grace is receiving what is not deserved. In this case, the blessings of God. No one, short of accepting Jesus as Savior, is worthy of any spiritual blessings, but grace is available for all who do accept Jesus.

Peace. Not necessarily happiness, but a confidence that, when being obedient, we are right with God.

Peter prayed that both grace and peace would be, not just present in the lives of the people to whom he wrote, but would be “multiplied” in each of them.

Then, following his introduction, Peter explained to his audience the purpose of suffering, but for this message, let’s slip down to verse 13. From there through verse 21, there is a call for change. No doubt the exiles of the Dispersion had already made changes, based on their faith. What Peter wrote was an encouragement to continue that process.

There are a number of instructions, beginning with “gird up your minds,” “be sober,” and “set your hope on grace.” 

The popular attire for men back then was a long-flowing robe. That made rapid movement difficult, so most men wore some kind of belt, in which the bottom of the robe could be tucked, making walking easier and faster. Here the call is to do whatever was necessary to help the mind to be free to move, as in think and consider and decide what is best.

Being sober refers to being serious about the teachings of Jesus. Being sober here means not being intoxicated with teachings that are opposed to what Jesus taught.

As mentioned, grace means receiving what is not deserved. Including the blessings of God. But we can hope to have His blessings. We will receive them when we soberly gird up our minds so we can be sure our attention is on Jesus alone.

All that will lead to avoiding being “conformed to human passions.” Passions those people had before they had become Christians. Passions known to those who even today are not Christians.

Avoid such passions, wrote Peter, which will lead to being “holy.” Holy means different, as in those Christians and Christians today, being different from other people. As in us being pure and kind and loving and obedient to the word of God.

And listen to this. Our example of holiness is none other than God Himself. Peter brought that up by quoting from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus. Leviticus 11:44-45, in which God twice challenged His people to mirror Him. He said - this is in the midst of many, many Old Testament chapters on how to live in everyday situations - God twice said, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Remember that not a one of those to whom Peter wrote, and not a one of us, and not Peter himself could or can be holy on our own. But that can be achieved with God’s help, which will come when our minds are girded up and we are sober and when we do hope on God’s grace.

All of which can happen because, Peter continued, those who believe in Jesus have been “ransomed.”

I came across a story about something that happened with a missionary in a nation in west Africa. The missionary asked if the people knew what being ransomed means. The answer was, “Yes. It means, ‘God took our heads out.”

Perplexed, the missionary asked, “What does that mean?” Here is the explanation. Many years earlier some of the people’s ancestors had been captured by slave traders, chained together, and herded to the seacoast. Each of the prisoners had a heavy iron collar around his neck.

As the slaves passed through various villages, occasionally a chief would notice a friend among the captives and offer to pay the slave traders in gold, ivory, silver, or brass. The prisoner would be ransomed by the payment. His head would then be taken out of his iron collar.

What a graphic illustration. And how true. Jesus died on the cross to purchase our freedom. Our freedom from slavery to sin. What a wonderful gift that is. A gift deserving of us being holy and obedient and sober and clear-thinking, all of that based on Jesus, not only paying our ransom by His death, but, as Peter continued, was raised from the dead by God and then glorified.

And listen to verse 22. Our obedience is to be seen in a very important way. We are to “love one another.” Remember that love means wanting only what is best for the one loved. And hear the word “earnestly.” We are to love earnestly, which means more than just saying we love. We are to truly and sincerely do what we can to promote the good of others. We are to do that with conviction, not just saying we love, but saying it and doing it from our hearts - with everything we are and everything we feel.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote to Christians who had been dispersed by persecution because of their Christian faith. Peter wished them grace and peace.

Those Christians - and those of us even now who have responded to having been chosen by God to be Christians - were - and we are - to be clear-minded and serious about our faith and have hope resting on God’s grace. They were - and we are - to be obedient and holy. They were - we are - to prove our obedience, our holiness, our joy at being chosen to be Christians by loving one another earnestly. 

All that is taught in the first chapter of I Peter. May we learn and live by each of those teachings.

To do that, we need faith. Let’s sing about that. The closing song is My Faith Has Found a Resting Place. We will sing verses 1 through 3.

My faith has found a resting place,

Not in device or creed;

I trust the ever living One,

That He for me will plead.

I need no other argument,

I need no other plea;

It is enough that Jesus died

And that He died for me.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,

This ends my fear and doubt;

A sinful soul I come to Him,

He will not cast me out.

I need no other argument,

I need no other plea;

It is enough that Jesus died

And that He died for me.

My soul is resting on the Word,

The living Word of God:

Salvation in my Savior’s name,

Salvation through His blood.

I need no other argument,

I need no other plea;

It is enough that Jesus died

And that He died for me.

Lord, what a privilege to be chosen. Not for a team or for any other earthly group, but chosen to be with You, the Savior of all who accept You as that. Help us to be joyful, no matter what life brings us. Help us to show our appreciation for Your blessings by being serious about our faith and by being holy and obedient and loving. Help us, O God. Amen. 

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