1 Peter - Lesson 2

By Curt Niccum

1 Peter 1:3-9

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The class can state the value of being “born again” as reflected in this text.
  2. The class can explain how suffering refines the Christian and why it is important.
  3. The class will praise God.
  4. The class can describe the tension between the “now” and the“not yet” (optional).


  1. Bibles for every student
  2. Copies of the worksheet for lesson #2
  3. Charcoal briquet
  4. If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.


Concerned about the impact of persecution on the church, Peter writes 1) to assure the Christians of their place in God’s kingdom and 2) to urge them to live as members of that kingdom rather than to capitulate to the surrounding culture. In the prayer of the letter, verses 3-9, Peter emphasizes both these points by 1) noting what God has done and is doing for His people, and 2) showing that even present suffering has a redeeming value.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Devotional Period (5-10 minutes)

  1. Read 1 Peter 1:3-9. After the reading have the reader mention to the class that worshipping God is consistent with Peter’s attitude expressed in this passage, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?.”
  2. Sing at least two songs (you may choose from the following)
    1. Be Not Dismayed What E’er Betide
    2. Because He Lives
    3. The Steadfast Love of the Lord
    4. Sing and Be Happy
    5. Each Step of the Way
  3. Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
    1. For Christians suffering persecution (focus on the positive)
    2. For the congregation to be more refined

Introduction (2 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors.
  2. Distribute study sheets.

Review (5-8 minutes)

  1. Ask members to share ways that that they lived as “resident aliens” the previous week.
  2. Having read the prayer section (1:3-9), ask the class what theme or themes might be prominent in the rest of the letter. (Possible answers would be praising God, rejoicing, an imperishable inheritance, suffering, being refined by fire,salvation, or faith, hope, and love. These all could be categorized into areas of suffering, promise, and praise.Challenge the class to look for these themes as the rest of the letter is studied.)

Learning Experiences (20 minutes)

Note: The teacher will not typically have enough time to cover all the information that is provided in this lesson. Much of what follows is offered as background material so the teacher can be informed enough to offer reasonable answers to difficult questions that students might ask. It is suggested that special emphasis be placed on items 1-3 and 7-8. Also, one need not include the information given under the sections marked with lowercase Roman numerals. This is more for guiding the teacher than for class discussion.

  1. Open this part of the lesson by asking the class to list the similarities and the differences between being born into a family and being adopted. (Please be sensitive during the discussion to those who have adopted children or have been adopted.)
    1. Similarities: Both loved by the parents, certain family characteristics gained through imitation, both full heirs according to the law.
    2. Differences: Only biological children share parents’DNA (some family characteristics, like baldness [or some other particularly noticeable trait of the teacher], only inherited), adopted children specifically chosen whereas some biological children were “accidents.”
  2. The language of adoption and birth are both used to describeChristians. (See Romans 8:14-17 and John 3:5-6.) Q: What truths does each term emphasize?
    1. Adoption:
      1. Emphasizes God’s love for the unloved. (Note that adoption in the first century was primarily the nurturing of babies aborted at full term.Some mothers today give up their children for adoption because they know it will be the best for them. In the first century, most unwanted babies were thrown out in the fields with no concern for their future. Some people coming across one would “adopt” them. Unfortunately, this was often for selling them into slavery rather than raising them as part of their own family. See alsoEzekiel 16.)
      2. Emphasizes the distinction in quality betweenGod’s unique child, Jesus, and those allowed into the family through the saving grace of God through Jesus.
    2. Birth:
      1. Emphasizes sharing God’s essence. Those who are baptized share God’s essence through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
      2. Emphasizes complete transformation. Adoption implies taking someone “as is.” The language of birth, or more properly rebirth, truly emphasizes being (re)created in the image ofGod.
  3. In his prayer, Peter wants to make the qualitative difference between life in the spiritual kingdom and life in the physical world absolutely clear. Furthermore, whereas “resident aliens” typically owe their allegiance to a different king, Christians owe their allegiance not just to God as the King of kings, but to God as Father. Peter again (as in verse 2) uses three prepositional phrases. These three clauses describe the nature of Christian assurance. (Each begins with the same preposition in the Greek suggesting they are born “into” them.) Q: What three terms in verses 3-5 describe what Christians are sure to receive?
    1. “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” ? The idea behind adoption language surfaces here, Christians are children because of the work of the one, true son. Peter prefers the language of birth for its emphasis on quality.
    2. “an indestructible, incorruptible, and unfading inheritance kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are being protected through faith” ? Only children receive an inheritance. Here the inheritance already exists, and God is protecting both His children and their inheritance. Human opposition, therefore, has no ultimate effect. (Note the threefold emphasis on the eternal quality of the inheritance.)
    3. “a salvation ready to be revealed at the end of time”? Although Christians frequently, and correctly, speak of “being saved,” here salvation is not yet attained. (See below.)
  4. All three of these phrases point to the future: “hope, inheritance, end of time.” Somewhat disconcerting is the reference to salvation as something future. On the other hand,much of the Christian life is described in some manner as both present and future. It is a tension between the “now” and the“not yet.”
    1. Q: Can you think of other Christian concepts that are both “now” and “not yet”?
      1. Hopefully the class will begin to think of some on their own. Items that could be included would be: kingdom of God or heaven, resurrection, and life in the Spirit. All of these belong to Christians already, but not to the full extent that they will be experienced at the return of Christ.
      2. If the class is slow to respond, have someone read Ephesians 2:5-6. Here Paul states that Christians have already been made to live with Christ, have already been raised with him, and have already been seated in the heavenly realms with him. How could Paul write that to Christians living in Asia Minor and not heaven?
    2. Many people have been confused by this type of language. Instead of keeping a balance between what is both “now” and “not yet,” some lean towards one extreme rather than the other. In 1 Corinthians, Paul has to deal with Christians who thought everything was“now” (realized eschatology). All the fullness of spiritual life, according to this group, was bestowed by God at baptism - there was to be no resurrection, no second coming, no life in heaven. At the other extreme, many Christians today assume that all of the Christian life, apart from a few rituals, belongs to the future. Attending the assembly, or even just taking the Lord’s Supper, on Sundays becomes a matter of “punching the clock” until the Lord comes. Then, and only then, the Christian life begins. Both views are misguided. Christians are indeed saved, but as the Christians to whom Peter wrote knew, primarily because of the persecution they were suffering, the fullness of salvation, that total peace and joy, still remains future. The phrase “resident aliens ”beautifully portrays this balance. We are citizens of the Kingdom. Even though we do not live there (the “now”), we will (the “not yet”).
  5. For Peter, even though the fullness of salvation remains in the future, for Christians it remains real in the present and is assured by the past.
    1. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead makes hope alive. Faith in the promises of God depends in large part on God’s faithfulness shown in the past. Our future hope is more real because of the resurrection of Christ.
    2. Our inheritance is being kept for us now. (Peter uses the perfect tense indicating that the inheritance was established in the past but continues to be reserved in the present for the heirs.)
    3. We who believe are being guarded in the present byGod’s power as our salvation is already prepared and ready to be revealed.
  6. For Christians, then, the future is real. It is more than just a possibility or probability. Salvation is palpable. This explains why Paul can write what he does in Ephesians 2 and best explains Peter’s use of the present tense here to describe the church’s rejoicing. (Although in Greek the present tense can be used for expressing the future, it seems best to retain its present force here.) Christians do rejoice, despite the real grief of suffering, for they realize that suffering is temporary and serves to refine. Their salvation is eternal.
  7. Q: Why do Christians rejoice in the face of trials (1:6-7)? A: It is because suffering refines one’s faith.
    1. As resident aliens, we belong to the Kingdom of God. Our homeland is indestructible, incorruptible, and unfading. We are to have the same qualities. (Note that God always creates the creatures most suited to each environment. See Genesis 1 where the sun, moon, and stars [day 4] are placed in the heavenly expanse [day1], the fish and birds [day 5] are placed in the waters below and above respectively [day 2], and humans and animals [day 6] are placed on the earth covered with plant life [day 3].) God has given us new birth (the language of Genesis), and are therefore to be conformed to the heavenly environment. Suffering refines our faith, it helps conform us to our new reality. For that reason we can rejoice.
      1. One must be careful not to misread Peter here.The sadness brought about by various earthly trials is just as real as the joy of knowing the heavenly salvation that has been reserved for us by our Father and King.
      2. It is not appropriate to put on a “smiley face” when overwhelmed with trauma and tragedy. It is deceitful to pretend to be happy when indeed sad.
      3. Expressing grief and sadness is not a sign of weakness or weak faith. (Indeed, it can be an expression of deep faith. Note the language of lament in the Psalms which also gets repeated in the New Testament.) Without a solid hope, grief is all that one has. For Christians, however, there is joy beyond the grief; there is light that eventually dispels the darkness. The main point here and in Romans 8 is that bad things can happen to good people. Because of God’s faithfulness demonstrated in Christ, those bad things cannot jeopardize the good God has in store for His people, namely their future salvation, their being conformed to the image ofHis son.
      4. The teacher should also note that Peter specifically addresses persecution in this letter and not suffering in general. The principle still applies, however, as one can see in Romans 8.
    2. One can use the charcoal briquet for an analogy. Q: How would a woman react if her boyfriend proposed to her and offered her a ring made of 24k gold with a piece of coal (represented by the charcoal briquet) in place of a diamond? Every woman wants a large stone, and all know that a diamond is just coal that has been refined through tremendous pressure. What real objection could she offer? A: There is a real qualitative difference. Diamonds are deemed appropriate for such a major decision as marriage and for the elaborate and costly gold setting. A small diamond would be more acceptable than a large piece of coal. For that environment, only a diamond will do. In the same way, we are refined spiritually, our faith is strengthened, our resolve is fortified, when we face various trials. We thereby become indestructible, incorruptible, and unfading so that we conform even more to the indestructible, incorruptible, and unfading environment God has prepared for us.
    3. This will also produce praise directed toward God. Although not explained here, it will be noted again later in the letter. Our attitude, our character in the face of suffering will play a role at judgment  “when every knee shall bow” (see 2:12).
  8. We also rejoice because suffering conforms us to Christ (see 2:21-24 and 4:12-14). As Christ obtained resurrection and established our salvation through suffering, in the same way we know we are obtaining the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls, when we imitate him.

Application (5-10 minutes)

  1. Read the following story in class: A daughter complained to her father about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs, and the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word. The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. In about twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.Turning to her he asked. “Darling, what do you see?”, “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. She humbly asked, “What does it mean, Father?” He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity, boiling water, but each reacted differently.The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique however. After they were in the boiling water, the water had not changed them, rather they had changed the water.“Which are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”-Author unknown

  2. Have the class discuss how well this story conveys Peter’s message in the passage studied.

  3. Discuss how people normally “eggs” and “carrots” become“coffee beans.” (Keep the solutions tied to the biblical text,and specifically 1 Peter, as much as possible. Do not let the discussion digress into pop psychology. Ultimately the answers should be associated with new birth.)

Assignment (2-5 minutes)

  1. Each member should read 1 Peter 1:10-12.

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