I am encouraged, comforted, and emboldened by the many faces of Peter. In Peter, we see impulsive and reckless behavior spawned by his desire to protect Jesus (John 18:10). In Peter, we see a dramatic reversal of his bold assertion that he was ready to die with Jesus (Matthew 26:35), as he sheepishly succumbed to weakness in a thrice denial (Matthew 26:69-75) and a humble restoration by Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). In Peter we see impressive boldness in the first public proclamation of the gospel message (Acts 2:14-41). In Peter, we see the heart of compassion in his letters as he comforts and reassures a suffering church.
The Apostle of Comfort & Encouragement
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. – 1 Peter 5:12, NIV-1978
With that statement toward the end of his first letter, the apostle Peter makes it clear that his purpose in writing is to encourage the flock and to testify to the grace of God. To accomplish this task, there are three concepts threaded into this letter. Peter writes of suffering, and of glory, and he speaks of those in relation to encouragement, hope, and grace. When we stand firm in the midst of our suffering, it brings glory to God our savior. It is this reality to which Peter refers when he says above, “this is the true grace of God.”
Let’s look at what Peter said immediately preceding the verse above.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:10, ESV
In 1 Peter 1:6 we suffer grief and trial, and in verse 7 it results in praise, glory and honor. In verse 11, we read of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. In 2:11 we resist the impulses waging war on our souls so that (v. 12) the pagans will glorify God. In 3:14, if we suffer for doing good, we are blessed! In 4:1-2 if we suffer in the body, we are done with sin and live for the will of God.
In 4:12, we are not surprised at the painful trials we suffer, but rather (v. 13) we rejoice at the honor of participating in the sufferings of Christ and will be overwhelmed when his glory is revealed. In 4:14, when we endure insults for Christ, we are blessed because the Spirit of glory rests on us. In verse 16, when we suffer as a Christ-follower, we praise God that we bear the name of Christ.
In 5:1, Peter speaks to the elders among the flock and reminds them that they will “share in the glory to be revealed,” and when Jesus appears, they will be given crowns of glory that will not fade away.
It is amazing that a letter like 1 Peter that is dominated by the theme of suffering can be so upbeat and so encouraging that it makes us want to do a fist-pump and shout a thunderous, “YES!”
The Apostle of Hope
Peter has been called the apostle of hope. It is Peter who tells us we have a living hope because we serve a resurrected Lord. It is this hope … no … this living hope that enables us to forge ahead regardless of the onslaught thrown against us. We are prepared emotionally and mentally for what is to come.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:13, NIV-1978
When it comes to our living hope, we are ready at all times to explain it and defend it.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15b, NIV-1978
The Apostle of Grace
We find the grace of God in every chapter of 1 Peter. He greets us with grace (1:3), threads it throughout the entire letter, closes with grace in 5:12, and urges us to “Stand fast in it.” God’s grace empowers us, sustains us, saves us, strengthens us, and all of it to the glory of God. “To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10, NIV-1978).
In this beautiful letter, Peter weaves his tapestry of encouragement, hope, and grace to persuade us that not only can we endure suffering, but we can laugh and rejoice in the midst of it. And hope is not just a “feel-good pill” that causes us to sit back comfortably with a big sigh. No. It is the catalyst, driving us into the hoard, toward the heart of the battle. It drives us forward, oblivious to the obstacles in our path.
Peter has composed a masterpiece of both simplicity and depth. It runs something like this:
- If we have grace, we have salvation in Christ, and with that, true life.
- If we have salvation in Christ, and life, we have a living hope.
- If we have a living hope, we can overcome anything we face in the world.
- In us, God will be glorified before the world.