Thursday, February 23, 2006

Suffering (1) in First Peter

Suffering is a major theme in Peter's first Epistle. FL Cross says,

Peter used the word 'suffer', in relation to the sufferings of Christ and those which Christians have to bear, as a sort of Ariadne thread for the whole work (1 Peter: a Paschal Liturgy, p14).
The Greek verb ‘suffer’ occurs twelve times in the epistle, as opposed to sixteen times in the rest of the New Testament epistles. Similarly, the noun “suffering” is used four times in Peter, and only ten times in the other New Testament epistles.

Peter is immensely interested in the nature of suffering. It should be noted though, that he is not here interested in general human suffering. His central concern is with those who suffer for the cause of God. The reason they suffer is their loyalty to God. Peter addresses himself to those who suffer as Christians.

The starting point for Peter is the suffering of Christ. Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered a cruel death on the cross. The prophets of the Old Testament, moved by the Spirit, predicted his sufferings (1 Pet 1:10, 11). Peter, more than any other New Testament writer, links Jesus with the suffering servant of Isaiah (1 Pet 2:22-25).

Suffering is the consequence and the only cure for sin. It had to be faced, if God was to intervene in the world to save men. Suffering had to be borne by the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pet 3:18). Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might be freed from our sin (1 Pet 2:14).

God loves the lost world, and wanted to redeem it, Jso esus had to suffer humiliation and the agony of cross. He is the Passover lamb, who shed innocent and precious blood (1 Pet 1:19). For Peter the sufferings of Jesus are the basis of an understanding of human suffering.

Peter elaborates a number of implications that the suffering of Christ have for Christians who suffer. I will cover these in several posts.

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