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Those who originally received this letter were Christians who were in danger of losing their way. Their new-found faith had severed the ties which had bound them to their non-Christian relatives and neighbors and was itself being tested because they were facing suffering. This situation was probably not what they had expected when they had first heard the gospel, and it is an experience faced by every generation since then.
Peter met their needs by reassuring them of the gospel. Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together to bring us a new life (1:3–5; 2:2; 4:1–6) in which the past is forgiven (2:24; 3:18), the present is protected (1:5) and motivated (4:2), and the future assured (1:4, 7). This is a way of life to be lived out in practical terms (1:13–16) and in everyday relationships (2:16; 3:1, 7). It equips the followers of Jesus for living in the real world of the here and now (4:1–4) and for that world of eternal glory for which Jesus is even now preparing us (5:10).
So Peter’s response to the question of suffering is that it is a part of the journey of faith. It tests the seriousness of our discipleship (1:7), joins us to our fellow-Christians (5:9), and will be vindicated on the day of judgment (4:16–19). Though believers are ‘strangers’ and ‘scattered’ in this world (1:1), they are part of the pilgrim people of God (2:5, 9), journeying to the Father’s home (1:4). They look forward to the day when Jesus will return for his own (1:7; 2:12; 5:4). These are truths which can motivate today’s Christians to live for God’s glory, just as they encouraged Peter’s original readers. Peter writes as one whose heart has lost none of the fire of love stirred up by the Master at the Sea of Tiberias (cf. Jn. 21:1, 15–19 with 1 Pet. 1:8). In this letter there is all the vividness of the personal recollections of a follower of Jesus Christ.
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