Many of the Christian-living principles found in the writings of Paul and James are also found in Peter’s Epistles—those of First and Second Peter. Since the Apostles addressed their epistles to different peoples, it was necessary to teach the principles that should be common to Christians everywhere. While the Jews were allowed to continue with the Temple worship until the Temple was destroyed, the Christian-living principles required of them were the same as those of the Gentiles. Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, James to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, and Peter to the Jews until after the death of the Apostle Paul. After Paul’s death, Peter’s apostleship also included the Gentiles of Asia Minor, as we see in 1 Peter 1:1.
After calling attention to the glorious future in store for those called, Peter admonishes Christians to recognize that the Christian life will be fraught with many trials and temptations. Peter wrote: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). What Peter declared is that while no trial is enjoyable while it is occurring, afterward it leads to great rejoicing. This is why it is well worth the effort to overcome these temptations.
Notice what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:12-13. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” When will the true joy and happiness of which Peter speaks be made manifest? The answer: at the return of Jesus Christ—the lively hope Peter mentioned in 1 Peter 1:3. This is the same hope of which Paul wrote in Romans 5:2. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. This glory will be realized in the glorified body of which Christ spoke when He said: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father . . .” (Matt. 13:43).
Speaking of Christ, Peter continued: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9). Because of this Peter admonishes: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of [behavior]” (vv. 13-15). This behavior includes love for the brethren. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (v. 22). Jesus said love for the brethren is an important identifying sign of true Christians (John 13:35). Loving one’s brother requires: ” . . . laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1). This is one of the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (v. 5).
Because Christians are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people (1 Pet. 2:9), Peter admonished: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your [behavior] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (vv. 11-12). Good behavior requires Christians to: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (vv. 13-14). “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (v. 17).
Another principle applies to all who are employed. It demonstrates the proper spirit and attitude that should prevail toward every employer. Peter specifically addressed servants (domestics), that is, those who labor for others.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward [difficult to work with]. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. (1 Pet. 2:18-23)
How Christians behave in marriage and treat their mates is extremely important and what Peter wrote in 1 Pet. 3:1-6 should be heeded. First, he addresses wives and instructs them on how to create harmony in the home, how to dress properly, and what the attitude behind their conduct should be.
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the [behavior] of the wives; While they behold your chaste [behavior] coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
Husbands are also instructed on how to treat their wives. Peter continued: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). This is a requirement in addition to being the provider. The Apostle Paul wrote: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8).
Members are given advice on how to cope with bad situations. Peter instructed: “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Pet. 3:9-11).
On the matter of persecution, Peter includes the following advice—advice that is ever applicable, even for us today.
But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good [behavior, conduct] in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. (1 Pet. 3:14-17)
In Chapter Four, Peter emphasizes the proper attitude Christians should maintain in the face of adversity (1 Pet. 4:1-4). Since criticism and persecution are likely to arise because conversion means forsaking a former lifestyle and the friends that went along with it, Peter again emphasizes the need to recognize the trials that are bound to come.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (vv. 12-14)
Putting to use Christian-living principles means that fervent love should prevail in our lives. This Christian love means being hospitable. Peter wrote: “And above all things have fervent [love] among yourselves: for [love] shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet 4:8-9).
Then Peter warns that no Christian should suffer because of wrong doing. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Pet. 4:15-16). Why should persecution be for righteousness sake? “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear” (vv. 17-18)? No Christian should ever need to be judged for practicing ungodliness.
Chapter Five begins with instruction for the ministry. Then it addresses how important it is for Christians to maintain an attitude of humility. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). Verse five can be understood in two ways: 1) It can refer to younger ministers and deacons who should defer to those who are older; or 2) It can refer to Church members in general. It demonstrates the need to be respectful toward older members. In any case, a competitive spirit is not from God. We read: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (vv. 6-7).
In closing, Christians are warned about the power of Satan, as well as the need to be serious minded, and the need to resist Satan. These same Christian requirements apply to all Christians around the world: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
We have seen that there are many Christian-living principles found in First Peter. As we become more aware of these principles, let us be constantly reminded of our need to practice them. There are a few more Christian principles of living in Second Peter.
Second Peter dwells more on the historical past, and of God’s judgment against the rebellious sinners. It emphasizes the need to avoid following in their footsteps. But first we are told how to develop the divine nature of God. Divine nature means holiness. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
Peter instructs us to take the following steps:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:4-8)
We build up faith by adding virtue (valor), followed by adding knowledge (discernment of God’s will). To this add temperance (self-control), then patience (patient continuance, endurance). Patience is to be followed by godliness (holiness). These attributes call for the addition of brotherly kindness (fraternal affection, brotherly love), finally followed by charity (a deep abiding love)—the mark of a true Christian.
One who does not utilize these building blocks of the divine nature is headed for bitter disappointment. Peter warns: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:9-11).
The most serious of warnings is given in 2 Peter 2:20-22. We would all profit immensely by giving heed to it.
For if after they [professing Christians] have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
This warning was also given by the Apostle Paul, when he wrote:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Heb. 6:4-6).
While this article ends on a serious note, serious consideration should be given to the principles of Christian living found in the Epistles of Peter. There is much to be learned from what has been preserved for us in the inspired Word of God.