Key Scriptures: I and II Peter
Optional Introductory Activity: Have students write a short “fashion show” description of what they are wearing and why they chose that outfit. Have a fashion show with a mc reading what the students wrote. What were the top reasons for choosing clothing? What are other reasons people wear particular clothes?
Lesson: (Question for students are in bold italics.) Yesterday we talked a little about the circumstances surrounding the writing of I and II Peter. Today lets look at what Peter actually wrote to the people. There are only a total of eight relatively short chapters if you combine both books. We don’t know how far apart they were written, but most likely they were written fairly close together. They both address same issue-encouraging Christians.
Peter starts (chapter 1 and most of 2) out by reminding his readers that suffering belongs in this world. Christians are never promised they will not suffer. If anything, the Bible suggests that Christians will probably suffer. The world is fallen and sinful. It will often despise Christians for worshipping God and obeying His commands. Have you ever felt like you were a “stranger in a strange land” when you are around non-Christians? Why or why not? If you have, how did it make you feel besides “different”? Does feeling different cause you to be tempted to sin? How?
Peter was evidently concerned the people to whom he was writing would be tempted to sin, too. After reminding them about the promise of eternity (and salvation) and the lack of suffering there, Peter immediately begins to write and encourage them to remain holy. What does he tell them they need to do? Isn’t it interesting that he throws in an important reminder! He reminds them to remember the cost of their redemption/salvation. Not just the silver or gold a person would need to get out of human slavery at the time. The blood of the Son of God redeemed their souls!
Do you ever think about heaven when times get tough? Do Peter’s words comfort you in any way? Do they just seem like empty words of promises that are too far away to cause you to feel better? Does his reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made for you cause you to think differently about any bad thing that has happened to you? Why or why not? (Note: These discussions can and probably will flush out a lot of questions and concerns, if you can create an open atmosphere. Remember it is not doubts that drive people away from God but unexpressed doubts. If the discussion get beyond what you are prepared to handle, don’t be afraid to tell them you would like to study and pray about it overnight and continue the discussion the next day.)
After Peter encourages these Christians he switches to an interesting topic in the last half of chapter 2. Why would he encourage them to submit to those in authority over them? This passage bothers a lot of people. They believe that by writing these things Peter (and thereby God) somehow approved of slavery or how the Roman government was persecuting the Christians.
Look at the passage again. Sometimes it is difficult for us to remember that God sees things from an eternal perspective. Because we are in a place in time and space, our brains cannot fully understand what that is like. We can understand that even a hundred years of like on earth is like a nanosecond compared to eternity.
God is not heartless about the persecution they were enduring under their owners or the government. Peter spent the entire first part encouraging them to remember where they were headed. God understood that there are only two ways out of persecution – denying God/Christ or doing something illegal or immoral to get out of the situation (killing, running away, etc.)
God knew the first would remove them from the hope of eternal life. The second, while it could be forgiven, set a bad example for non-Christians. God knew for Christianity to grow and flourish the people had to see a very clear difference between their own behavior and the behavior of the Christians. History tells us that, that is exactly what happened. The peace with which many Christian martyrs met their punishments and often death amazed many people. The church grew rapidly in part because others wanted to know how Christians could be so calm in the face of death.
Peter didn’t just tell them to hang in there though he reminded them how Jesus behaved right before His death. Go back to one or more of the Gospels and read again how Jesus behaved. (You may even want to show an excerpt from a film depicting that evening.)
Peter reminded his readers that if anyone did not deserve the punishment they received it was Jesus, the perfect Son of God. Peter also makes it clear that if they did something wrong and were punished there was no “credit” in that. If, however, they were being godly and were unjustly punished God would find that commendable!
Peter spends much of the rest of I Peter repeating the same concept. Do you think it is still an important concept today? Why or why not? Do you think you could accept an unjust punishment the way Jesus did?
Peter does break off twice in his general discussion of doing what is right and holding up under persecution to talk about husbands and wives, elders and young men. Why do you think Peter felt it necessary to address these two particular groups in the midst of his more general advice to all Christians? What does Peter say to husbands and wives? Does it fit in with the rest of the letter? Why of why not? We often lose a lot of important information because English words are not as descriptive s some Greek words (i.e. multiple Greek words for love). The word for submission regarding wives submitting to their husbands is the same word used in other passages, which instructed everyone to submit to the public authorities. We know from Biblical examples that we are to obey the authorities in the land unless the law violates God’s laws. Daniel, Shadrach, and company and even Peter disobeyed direct commands that would require them to reject God and/or worship others. In fact Peter and the other Christian martyrs were often put death because they defied a command from an authority to reject Christ and worship Roman or other gods.
Notice Peter is not really focused on a wife “obeying” her husband as much as he wants the woman to behave in such a way that their husbands would want to become Christians. In what ways can a wife act towards her husband that would make him not want to become a Christian? How could she behave to encourage him to be interested in Christianity? Roman women especially were given to elaborate hair-does, fancy clothing and expensive jewelry to express their status and importance.
How does that help explain what Peter wrote? Have you ever witnessed that in today’s culture? How is it expressed now? How can women (and men) avoid that trap?
Notice Peter addresses the husbands also. As with slavery, he does not try to radically change the culture of the time, but merely attempts to shift attitudes and behaviors back towards God. It is likely; God understood that when their hearts and behaviors were focused on God, the culture would change. It is very difficult to enslave people or treat them as “less than” when you love them as you would love yourself.
Read I Peter 5 again. Notice the chapter starts specifically talking about elders and then appears to shift towards how younger people in the church are to behave toward older people. Why do you think Peter wrote what he did? How does it apply to us today? What behaviors and attitudes do you need to change to obey this passage?
II Peter is very short. Read it and then share why Peter might have written these words to Christians who were experiencing persecution. How would they have comforted them? What specific things did Peter tell them to do? Why would false teachers be a concern to people experiencing persecution? Even if we are not currently experiencing persecution for our faith (although many in the world still die for being Christian each year), does Peter’s letter still help us? How? What principles from this letter do you need to focus on more as you live your daily life?
Application Challenge: Read I and II Peter again. Think about how consistently following the advice Peter gives might make you feel like a “stranger” around your peers. What changes do you need to make to do what Peter asks us to do?
Author: Thereasa Winnett