Lesson 5 of 6
In Progress

Theological Themes in 1 Peter

rev. by Kristofer Phan Coffman (04/2023)

Good works

Exhortations to do good works and to do what is right come with acknowledgements that in a hostile world these actions will often bring unwelcome consequences. The point is, for people who have been born anew and set free from this world’s judgment, this behavior not only will accomplish good things that God needs for the world, but it also will bear witness to the truth of the Christian faith to unbelievers.


Hope refers to a sure and certain future reality (promised or otherwise guaranteed by God) in which we are to put our hope. The Bible might be said to speak of hope as something “objective,” to which our “subjective” attitude of hope corresponds. Therefore, in 1 Peter 1:3 the risen Christ is our living hope; in 1:13 we are to set our hope on the grace Jesus Christ will bring; in 1:21 faith and hope are pictured as set on God; in 3:15 Christians are expected to be able to give persuasive reasons for their hope.

Unjust suffering

A clear distinction is to be made between suffering that is justly deserved and suffering that is undeserved because people have not done something bad but nevertheless are treated badly. Such unjust suffering is an important theme in 1 Peter because it could have been misunderstood by Christian converts as meaning that the Christian faith was not true and that they were being punished by other gods for the actions that follow from faith in Christ. There is no glorification of suffering in this letter; suffering simply is to be expected in the sense that Christians who do right and suffer for it do so in a way that is similar to Jesus’ sufferings. Only this specific way of sharing in Jesus’ sufferings is to be seen as an occasion for rejoicing about suffering (4:13).

The World

In 1 Peter, the whole world in its temporal or historical existence is seen by the author as (1) God’s creation, made in accordance with (2) God’s will and purposes, (3) ordered in certain ways by God for creation’s own good, and in which (4) God remains active–creating, preserving, providing, sustaining, and judging. In addition, (5) God has acted to save human beings through Jesus Christ, and one day (6) God will bring the created world to its promised end. Notice that God is the subject of all of these statements about the world.

God and History

The author of 1 Peter sees God as the principal actor in history. God and heaven are not portrayed as being high above the world; rather, God is viewed as being before, during, in, with, and after the created world. The world and history are not pictured as moving along on their own, whether aimlessly or in some deterministic fashion; rather, in the midst of created freedom, God acts to move created reality (including humans) in certain directions. This worldview is quite different from the ways that modern people–Christians and others–think about the world most of the time.

Christ’s suffering in relation to Isaiah 53

In 1 Peter, Jesus’ suffering is interpreted primarily through the lens of the suffering servant passage in Isaiah 52-53. Jesus’ sufferings, inflicted on an innocent person, are said to have taken place for others-not least for those to whom 1 Peter is addressed. In making this case, 1 Peter makes the most extensive use of Isaiah 53 of any New Testament book: 1 Peter 2:21-25 paraphrases Isaiah 53:5-11, and 1 Peter 3:18 draws on Isaiah 53:4-6.Therefore, Christians also are to suffer undeserved criticism and unjust treatment, so that their faith and good conduct will be apparent: “by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish” (1 Peter 2:15). In this, they follow the example of Christ, who did not seek vengeance, a mark of honorable males in Greek culture, but who suffered for the sins of the unrighteous to bring them back to God (3:18). The idea is not to endure suffering as an end in itself, but to do good even when it brings suffering upon oneself. That is, suffering in this sense is not a strategy, either for Jesus or for the Christian; rather, it is a consequence of faithful existence in relation to the ongoing work of God.