The Gospel in 1 Peter

This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

Hardship and Holiness

Hardship and holiness: these are the twin themes of Peter’s first epistle, written to a church composed of Gentile converts from licentious hedonism on the one hand and Jewish converts with Old Testament traditions on the other hand. Together they experienced an alien and exile status in a hostile world. Persecution against and oppression of the church of Jesus Christ had already begun, and Peter writes to encourage this “mixed bag” of believers with dear but easily forgotten truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One day, Christ will return to avenge our persecution and vindicate our suffering.

Peter provides this encouragement through a combination of proclamation and exhortation, and curiously, one of the proclamations is that suffering is inevitable for followers of Jesus. Such brutal facts may be difficult to take initially. But as trials come, the understanding that such suffering can be the mark and measure of faithfulness helps these early Christians to see that affliction is one more means of Christlikeness and, indeed, one more avenue of true joy.

Peter’s words on holiness and hardship are inextricably connected. Because of the way the Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, Peter not only sees holiness as necessary for enduring hardship; he sees hardship as a way the Spirit makes us holy.

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Practical Application

Peter is gracious to apply these truths generally at first, and then gradually more specifically to the practical challenges of everyday life. The connection between hardship and holiness is applicable for Christian citizenship (1 Pet. 2:13–25), Christian families (1 Pet. 3:1–7), and Christian churches (1 Pet. 5:1–11).

From Peter’s instructions, believers in Jesus are trained in seeing the role and even the value of suffering. Christians learn that hardship is not outside God’s sovereign will and is used by God to fashion us according to Christ’s image. Authentic holiness in this adversity-filled life is possible through the power of the Spirit in the gospel, and indeed it is this very adversity that trains us for godliness. Through it all, however, we remember that the hardships of the world are temporary blips on the radar of the joyful life of eternal glory that begins when our flesh gives way and we go to be with the Lord. And one day, Christ will return to avenge our persecution and vindicate our suffering.

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

Old Testament

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New Testament

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