notes on first peter one

During Lent we are hosting a weekly evening gathering with a meal, prayers, hymns and discussion of the First Letter of Peter. As we do not own a church building we are meeting in the home of one of the members of University Hill Congregation. This is one way in which our experience as a congregation parallels that of the early church addressed by this letter. In preparing for our time together I send a few questions to the group, hoping to stimulate their own questions as they read. Here are those questions for week one, chapter one ...

I Peter 1

When we gather on Thursday evening we will read the first chapter of the First Letter of Peter. Come with your questions and insights. Here are some questions to consider as you read …

It is not known if this letter was written by Simon Peter or has been traditionally ascribed to him though written by another author in his name. Some say that there is every reason to believe that these are the words of Peter from late in his life. Others doubt that this is the writing of a Galilean fisherman. What difference, if any, does it make to you if this letter is – or is not – written by Peter?

This letter is considered one of the General (or Catholic) Epistles in the New Testament. These are letters likely written around the turn of the First Century at a time when the infant church was struggling with the challenges inherent in maintaining its identity as a tiny community scattered across a global empire. In what ways might our current context mirror the situation addressed by the Pastoral Epistles? How might our situation differ from the one addressed in I Peter?

Peter identifies himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ.” What is meant by the term “apostle”? The universal church is often referred to as “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” What does it mean to be a part of an apostolic church?

Who are the “exiles of the Dispersion”? In what ways might we be like or unlike them? Peter says of them that they are chosen, destined, sanctified, obedient and “sprinkled with his blood.” Why might it be important to identify the letter’s recipients in this way?

Peter says that by God’s “great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” What is the difference between “hope” and “a living hope”? How might the resurrection birth us into a living hope? What would such a re-born life look like for us as individuals and as a congregation?

“For you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” How does the saving of one’s soul translate into a saved, changed life? What might our souls need saving from?

Peter invites the recipients of this letter to “be holy.” What does a holy life look like? What makes a church “holy”? How do you respond to the invitation to be a holy person and to belong to a holy people?

Peter reminds the community that they have been ransomed “from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors” by the “precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.” What has changed in the lives of those who are on the receiving end of this letter? What experience is Peter trying to describe? Have you had an experience similar to this? How might the church have been “ransomed”?

Peter says that the new birth into a new life will not perish because it comes from an imperishable source. What is the source of the “genuine mutual love” that Peter encourages? On the one hand, Peter says that this new life has its source outside the church. On the other hand, he encourages the church to live the new life of love obediently. What is the relationship between a love that comes from without – that is not self-generated – and active participation in the work of living the love that has been received as a gift?

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