1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you. – 1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV
As the salutation of this letter suggests, its author is none other than “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” This is the very same Peter whom Jesus called to be one of His disciples. He was first introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew, who was originally a disciple of John the Baptist. These two men were fishermen, who had a business partnership with two other brothers, James and John (Luke 5:10). But Andrew had been drawn to the enigmatic ministry of John the Baptist, the rather bizarre and mysterious character who had shown up in the Judean wilderness declaring that the kingdom of God had come and calling the people to repent and be baptized. John’s message, mannerisms, and style of dress attracted a lot of attention.
John wore clothing made from camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. Then people from Jerusalem, as well as all Judea and all the region around the Jordan, were going out to him, and he was baptizing them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. – Matthew 3:4-6 NLT
John’s unconventional wardrobe and message caused a great deal of conjecture among the people. Many thought he might be a prophet sent from God. Some even believed he might be the long-departed prophet, Elijah. Others went as far as to suggest he was the long-awaited Messiah. But John put all these rumors to rest when he declared, “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’” (John 1:23 NLT).
The Pharisees, perplexed by John and a bit put out by John’s growing reputation among the people, demanded to know what right he had to say and do the things he did.
“If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” – John 1:25 NLT
And John responded emphatically, albeit a bit cryptically, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:26-27 NLT). Andrew would have overheard these exchanges between John and the Jewish religious leaders. And the very next day, he just happened to be standing next to John when Jesus walked by. When he heard John say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36 ESV), Andrew’s curiosity got the better of him and he followed Jesus. He ended up spending the entire day in the company of this stranger from Galilee and when the day was done, he made a beeline to his brother Simon.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). – John 1:40-41 NLT
After less than 24 hours in Jesus’ presence, Andrew had become convinced that He was the Messiah, the anointed one of God who would restore the fortunes of Israel by re-establishing the Davidic dynasty and restoring the nation to power and prominence. The next morning, his excitement undiminished, Andrew introduced his brother to the man he believed to be the one of whom the prophets spoke.
Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”). – John 1:42 NLT
Upon meeting Simon, Jesus promptly changed his name to Cephas, the Aramaic version of the Greek name, Petras or Peter. But Simon received far more than a name change that day. He didn’t realize it at the time, but his entire life was about to undergo a radical transformation that would have eternal ramifications. Yet, at the time, the newly named Peter seems to have made no plans to become a disciple of Jesus. In fact, according to Luke’s gospel, Peter simply went back to his normal routine. But he would soon learn that his new name was just the beginning of the changes that Jesus had in store for him.
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. – Luke 5:1-11 NLT
It would appear that Simon had not initially shared his brother’s enthusiasm and certainty that Jesus was the Messiah. He simply went back to work. But Jesus was not done with Simon. This “change” encounter by the Sea of Galilee would dramatically alter the trajectory of one man’s life and forever change the world. Simon the fisherman would become Peter the fisher of men. This impulsive and, oftentimes, impudent man would end up deserving his new name. He was a “rock” in more ways than one. Hardheaded and quick-tempered, Simon was a speak-first-think-later kind of guy who regularly put his mouth in gear before his brain was engaged. He was competitive, compulsive, prone to pride, and desperate for recognition. He was an overachiever whose rough edges rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
And while Simon had been blown away by the miracle of the massive catch of fish, the greatest miracle would be the ultimate transformation of his own life. He would go from fisherman to follower of Jesus. In time, he would become one of three disciples who formed the inner circle of Jesus. He, James, and John would be privileged to witness the transfiguration of Jesus. They would be invited to join Jesus in the garden as He prayed on the night of His arrest. Simon would be the one to declare of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV). But he would also be the one who, three separate times, denied even knowing Jesus. Yet, this man would become a “rock” in the early days of the Church.
After the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Simon would earn his nickname as the “rock,” preaching with boldness and conviction and producing a harvest of new lives for the Kingdom of God.
Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. – Acts 2:40-41 NLT
It was this same Peter who penned the words of this letter that bears his name. And he wrote to an audience made up of new converts to Christ. These were believers living in such distant lands as Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. They were predominantly Gentiles who were having to live out their newfound faith in the midst of a secular and, oftentimes, hostile culture. Peter refers to them as “elect exiles of the Dispersion” in order to stress the temporary and alien nature of their status as followers of Christ. By aligning themselves with Jesus, they had made themselves enemies of the state. Misunderstood and often maligned, these individuals were facing extreme persecution and harsh retribution for their decision to follow Jesus. Yet, Peter was writing this letter to encourage them to remain strong in the face of opposition
Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. – 1 Peter 5:9-10 NLT
Ultimately, Peter wanted the recipients of his letter to understand that God was not only aware of their difficult circumstances, but He had sovereignly ordained them. Nothing they were experiencing was a surprise to God. Their salvation had been His doing, but their suffering and sanctification were also part of His divine plan. Peter knew that these people were beginning to question the efficacy of their salvation experience. They had come to Christ fully expecting the promise of abundant life. But now they were experiencing trials and tribulation, rejection and ridicule. In their minds, the Gospel appeared to be some kind of bait and switch. But Peter wanted them to understand that it was all part of God’s sovereign will for their lives. God had not abandoned them and He was far from done with them. In fact, Peter wanted them to know that their current trials would be the source of great joy.
There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. – 1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT
In a sense, Peter was providing his readers with a traveler’s guide for Christian pilgrims. He was giving them much-needed directions for safely navigating the path that God had laid out for them.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.