1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
Introduction – The Man
The Apostle Peter by the time of this epistle was a seasoned minister and missionary. He was an elder and mentor to the early church. In the beginning it was not so; Peter had a knack for putting his foot in his mouth among other things. He was brash, spontaneous and forceful but at the same time he could be humble, tender and giving. Peter, in the garden where Jesus was captured, picked up a sword ready to fight to the death only to deny his Lord three times later that same day. Such were the early days of Peter.
Now as this epistle opens Peter is two or three years away from martyrdom which he suffered in Rome. (63-64AD) Peter doesn’t speak of this in his 1st epistle but he will make reference to his time being short in 2 Peter.
How old was Peter? I’m not sure, we can get rather close to the time in history, 60-61AD, when the epistle was written but we don’t know when Peter was born. Peter, as well as the other disciples, was paired up by Jesus in groups of two in order to preach the word. In Jewish culture you wouldn’t be given an audience to speak unless you were 30 years of age so if we suppose Peter to be age 30 when Jesus’ ministry started then he would be about 60 years old at this time.
Who is Peter addressing? In this case we have names of provinces. Some of these you will remember as being places where the Apostle Paul visited. Peter was addressing Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike. Some would say wait a minute, it says strangers which must mean Jews in a foreign land. The word stranger here means pilgrim and can also mean Christians whose home is now heaven. In chapter 4:3-4 Peter talks about steering clear of the old Gentile way so I believe Peter is addressing Christians no matter where they come from. Addressing Jews and Gentiles is a change from Peter’s earlier years. Several times as a young disciple Peter hung on to racial prejudices common amongst Jews thinking that non-Jews were inferior. Acts 10 was a huge turning point for Peter when God taught him that all men are equal in God’s eyes. All men are God’s creation; there is no room for bigotry.
Now for the area this epistle was going to: The region is in Asia Minor with the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the north. The places listed by Peter are in the northern section of modern day Turkey and the terrain is mountainous.
A repeating theme throughout the book is “suffering”. As you well know life is not a bed of roses. There are those today who suggest that if you are right with God then life will be easy. Obviously there were people in Peter’s day that said the same thing. The Apostle Peter will address this issue dispelling the notion that bad things only happen to bad people. Why do bad things happen to good people? That’s a big question and as we study through the epistles of Peter we will build an answer to that question.
Closing Remarks: Bithynia
One of the places Peter addresses is Bithynia. This is an answer to a question many have asked about an event that happened during Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. In Acts 16:7 Paul is told to stay out of Bithynia causing some to wonder why. Was God not going to give them a chance to hear the gospel? Here in the very first verse of 1 Peter we get our answer: Paul was told to bypass Bithynia, God’s plan didn’t rule them out; He had a different time and person for that area. What we can conclude is God wants all to hear the gospel but in a time and place of God’s choosing to maximize their chance to hear and obey the gospel.