When the time came for Simon Peter to write his letters to believers (1 & 2 Peter), the Holy Spirit of God brought to his remembrance what he had seen and heard in his own experience. He had been one of the Lord’s chief companions for more than three years, and instructs us in what God had taught him. Let us look at six lessons from the letters of Peter.
Peter knew that the redeemed of the Lord would need an example and a leader in whose steps they would follow. He sets before them Christ Himself, “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). If they were called upon by God to suffer, Christ Himself had suffered before them. This statement cannot be too often quoted: “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Christ also suffered at the hands of men. He was despised and rejected by them. They reviled Him, but He did not threaten them—He wept over them, and prayed for them, and died that they might be saved. He suffered like this so that He might leave us an example—that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). He tells us we must not be surprised when called upon to suffer. Peter would remember the Lord’s own words: “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). We are to expect the suffering, and to rejoice in it, for we are to be made glad with exceeding joy when Christ’s glory shall be revealed (Luke 6:22,23; 1 Peter 4:13).
Walk in Obedience
Peter had also observed that it was in subjection to the will of God that the sinless One trod the path of suffering until He could say, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Nothing could turn Him out of the path of God’s will. Sinners could not do it, the subtlety and the power of the devil could not do it, nor could His friends do it. Peter on one occasion, with the boldness of ignorance, had attempted to do it, only to be sternly rebuked. Jesus set His face as a flint. Peter never forgot that.
Peter addresses his Epistle to those who had been elected and sanctified unto the obedience of Jesus Christ and he calls them to be “obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14). He presses God’s will upon us: submission is to be a defining character of our lives. We are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6), to be subject one to another (1 Peter 5:5), and to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake (1 Peter 2:13).
Live in Hope
The transfiguration of our Lord had made an indelible impression on the soul of Peter. It was the sure pledge to him of the glory to come. “We … were eyewitnesses of His majesty,” he says, “when we were with Him in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:16-18). That future glory is our living hope to which God, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us (1 Peter 1:3).
Our faith may be tried, but our trials are investments into God’s treasury and will be found more precious than gold that perishes. Such faith will be “unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). We look on to that day of manifestation, when everything will be seen and appraised at its true value. Hope must be active as well as faith.
Peter had suffered for his self-confidence, and he desired to save the beloved saints to whom he wrote, and us, from this folly. “Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). I am sure that Peter had in his memory the unforgettable act of the Lord when, on the night on which He was betrayed, He rose from the supper table and began to wash His disciples’ feet. Peter had resented the Lord’s taking that place of lowly service to him, because he did not yet understand that Divine love must serve.
“I have given you an example,” said the Lord, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Luke tells us that at that same supper He said to them, “I am among you as He that serveth” (Luke 22:27). God looks for the reproduction of the features of His Son in us, and if our hearts are affected by the love of the Lord we shall gladly serve one another with humility of heart. Grace from above and humility within are needed for such service.
Three times Peter exhorts his readers to be sober-minded. Perhaps this is because three times he had denied the Lord. He had not been attentive then and he did not watch unto prayer: therefore the devil found him an easy prey, and would have devoured and destroyed him had it not been for the intercession and restoring grace of the Lord.
But how sobered he must have been as he thought of his foolish pride, but more so as he contemplated the sufferings of his sinless Savior for his fleshly self-confidence and the sins which were the fruit of it. We can only get a right estimate of our sins as we view them in the light of the cross.
Peter had been kept so that his faith did not fail. How deep must have been his feelings as he remembered it all and wrote to us, “who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:5). The devil as a roaring lion may seek to devour those who belong to Christ, but his devilish hatred of them will not avail him, nor all his subtlety and strength. For not even he can pluck them out of the Shepherd’s hands, and the Father who gave them to Him is greater than all and no one can pluck them out of the Father’s hand.
Yet with his own experience in mind Peter warns us to be sober, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end” (1 Peter 1:13). “The end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).
Love One Another
Peter urges us to love other believers. “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). “Above all things have fervent [love] among yourselves: for [love] shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Peter had learned from the Lord’s own words that the way by which all men would know that they were His disciples would be if they had love one for another (John 13:35).
He would remember the Lord’s resurrection message, “Go to My brethren” (John 20:17), and he did not forget that three times over He had given them a commandment. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). “This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17).
—Adapted from “The Witness of Simon Peter” by J.T. Mawson.