- Our identity as pilgrims on the journey to resurrection
- Consoling and hopeful words during Christ centered suffering
- Guidance in our relationships with one another
People of Hope: 1 Peter 1: 1-13
Tell of a time when you felt you did not fit in.
Dig Deeper and Our Story
1. Peter refers to Christians as strangers in this world (1:2; 2:11). Explore what it means to live in exile, as strangers and aliens (as many of the refugees among us do). Discuss all the things that would be disorientating (food, language etc). What correlation is there between the experience of a refugee and Scriptures description of Christians as pilgrims/strangers/exiles in this world?
2. Imagine yourself as a first century persecuted Christian. What encouragement and joy would vs 2 bring them (and us)? (Read Exodus 24: 4-8 to understand the new meaning Peter gives to the sprinkling of blood).
3. Author Lewis Smedes writes that without the resurrection of Jesus we are left with two options: utopian illusion and deadly despair. Why? What four reasons does Peter give for Christian hope in vs 6 – 9, even in the midst of suffering? Is this inheritance (salvation) just something to look forward to in heaven or are we already receiving it in part (refer to vs 9)? If so how?
4. Smedes suggests that hope comes as a blend of three ingredients: dream, desire and faith. The dream (what we can imagine) and desire (what we long for) come more easily, but what about faith? How could vs 8 be considered a definition of faith? How does Peter acknowledge that faith can come in for a battering?
5. A sure and living hope is not so much an attitude to cultivate but a reality to be recognised. In light of this passage do you agree with this statement? Why?
6. Our faith clearly matters to God – and we will be honoured for it (vs 7)! CS Lewis calls this the Divine Accolade and illustrates it in the Magicians Nephew when Aslan turns to Digory at the end with two words: ‘Well Done’. Wesley Hill asks the following questions: Can we have a conception of God-glorifying faith, holiness, and righteousness that included within it a profound element of struggling and stumbling? Can I view my failures not as damning disqualifications for living a Christian life but rather as part and parcel of what it means to live by faith in a world that is fallen and scarred by sin and death? (For further reflection on how the NT positively describes how God commends us for faith: 1 Cor 4:5; 2 Cor 10:18; John 5:44; Romans 8:18).
For personal reflection: Ponder this week that you can bring pleasure to God.
People of Holiness: 1 Peter 1: 13-2:3
Describe a time when you were shown mercy
Dig Deeper and Our Story
1. Peter calls Christians to be a holy people. Derek Rishmawy writes that we associate God’s holiness primarily with purity and judgement. He suggests that mercy is what holiness looks like in the lives of God’s children. Read the following passages and discuss whether you think this is a fair definition: Luke 6:35-36; Hosea 11:8-9; Ex 33:19; Phil 2:14-15.
2. What does it mean to live as strangers with reverent fear? Do you understand this as a positive or negative thing?
3. The precious blood of Christ has overcome your sin and your death (vs 18-21). We are reminded that we are loved in our sinfulness as we share communion together. How does communion encourage you to hold onto this truth as a lived reality?
4. Peter reminds his readers that God, as a loving Father, pays attention to the choices we make (vs 17) and how we treat others matters to him. Christian obedience is to love. Read through the passage together and make a list of how God expects us to change the way we relate to people.Which imperatives are a piece of cake and which will take much grace?
For personal reflection: How does this passage prompt you to pray to your loving Father?
A Priestly People: 1 Peter 2: 4-10
Are you a royal family fan? If so, what do you find fascinating about them?
Dig Deeper and Our Story
1. Peter uses three OT references to describe Christ as the living Stone (Is 28:16; Ps 118:22; Is 8:14). We too have the status of living stones, joined to the Cornerstone and being built into a spiritual house. How do you understand this picture and what truths about the Christian life does it convey?
2. To understand the significance of being invited to be part of the holy priesthood, it’s helpful to know what it meant to be a priest in the OT. Only priests could enter the sanctuary to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, and only the Holy of Holies once a year. The people of God could only enter the courts and the Gentiles were barred from entering at all – they had to remain outside. Peter states our new identity: In Christ we are all joined together to be a holy priesthood, with direct access to God. This status would have been a staggering revelation to the people of God. Read Hebrews 10:19. What do we learn about how to approach God in prayer as holy priests?
3. As a young pious Jewish fisherman, Peter would have scorned the Gentiles. Now writing to mainly Gentiles towards the end of his life he states that they too are God’s chosen people; not an afterthought of God’s mercy, not second-class citizens, but like him the object of God’s mercy and grace. What do you think brought about this about turn (Skim through Acts 15)? How have you grown in your appreciation of the multiplicity of styles and culture that make up God’s people?
4. Peter describes the two roles of priests in vs 5, 9. Name these and discuss in your own words what you understand them to mean. How do these apply to us in 2019?
5. Our tendency is to view our spirituality through an individualistic lens. However, this passage reminds us that together we are spiritual house, a chosen people, a royal people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. Christ came to make us a part of his body and our identity is in his eternal family. Writer Megan Hill describes four common untruths that can keep us from being part of a church family:
My relationship with God is strictly personal
My personality isn’t suited to Sunday church
I’m already part of a community (other than church) with whom I have a lot in common
I’m focusing on my family so church not a priority
Discuss whether you agree or disagree that these are untruths.
For personal reflection: How will this passage change how you to relate to others in our church and how it will prompt you to pray to God?
A Countercultural People: 1 Peter 2: 11-3:7
What’s the most countercultural thing you have done?
Dig Deeper and Our Story
1. The key point of vs 13-23 is that we follow the example of Jesus in the way he interacted with people, including the authorities who unjustly accused him. List and discuss the four things Jesus did not do when unjustly accused (vs 21-23). What are the two reasons Peter gives for why Jesus acted the way he did?
2. Read the following quote by Steven Cole:
The great goal of the Christian life is to be like Jesus. That sounds wonderful until we realize that being like Jesus means submitting to proper authority, even if it’s unjust. It means submitting to please God and to bear witness to the lost. It means following Christ’s example, even as he went to the cross. It means not retaliating when we’re wronged. It means entrusting ourselves to the Righteous Judge, knowing that someday He will right all the wrongs.
With the above in mind, what are some guiding principles for Christians on when and how to assert our rights and when to hold back? The following are some examples but you may have a current example from your own life:
a work situation in which you are being unfairly treated
the decision around when to publicly engage in social injustice
how we participate in what Deborah Tannen calls the ‘argument culture’, in which we demonize and disrespect those we don’t agree with (especially on social media)
3. Note: Peter calls wives ‘weaker partners’ because women were disadvantaged socially, politically, economically and legally. Paul makes the point that in Christ there is no male, no female, we are all one in Christ. In the same way, Peter is not insulting women by calling them inferior; his imperative to husbands to be considerate and respectful would have been extremely counter-cultural in ancient times.Submission sounds like a dirty word nowadays. In what ways could Peter’s teaching on submission be misunderstood?
4. Read the poem below by Carlos A Rodriquez
Jesus protected women.
Honoured women publicly.
Released the voice of women.
Confided in women.
Was funded by women.
Celebrated women by name.
Learned from women.
And spoke of women as examples to follow.
Reflection: In light of current debate sparked by the MeToo# movement, in what ways is it the turn of the church to follow the above example of Jesus? How is our church doing on this front?
People of Grace: 1 Peter 3: 8-22
When have you had an opportunity to demonstrate grace, or have been on the receiving end of grace recently?
Dig Deeper and Our Story:
1. Peter sums up his previous section with five imperatives: live in harmony, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate (tender-hearted), be humble.
The Christians he is writing to were having a hard time – being a Christian was on its way to being a criminal act. Yet Peter reminds them that their faith ‘demands’ that they still live lives beyond themselves and their own needs. They are to live as signposts of the new world which has come, and is coming through Jesus. Imagine them huddled together in fear and reading this letter – what would this passage have meant to them? Share with the group someone you know who lives out these Christ-centered imperatives, even in the midst of hardship.How do they inspire you to do the same?
2. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing. In a recent testimony by someone whose son was murdered, she spoke of the long and difficult path of obeying this verse in the way she treated the murderer. Her actions led him to Christ and a new way of living. In what ways is this surprising act of grace evidence of the upside-down way of living life with Jesus? Can you think of a situation in which you don’t believe someone deserves your, or someone else’s, forgiveness but rather revenge? Are the demands of not just forgiving but being a blessing realistic?
3. What do we learn from this passage about sharing our faith with others? (You may want to include in your discussion the recent controversy concerning rugby player Israel Folau).
4. We are connected to Jesus’ grace through the covenant of baptism (vs 21-22). Share the circumstances of your baptism and what significance this covenant still holds for you.
For personal prayer this week: Lord, help me not to be frightened but to keep you always as Lord of my heart. Amen
A Transformed People: 1 Peter 4: 1-11
Open: What’s the best gift you have been given?
Dig Deeper and Our Story:
1. Peter again emphasizes that we should have the same attitude as Christ toward suffering. This attitude turns us away from sin – or as Peter writes that through Christ’s body we are done with sin. Have a discussion around how you understand sin. What does the Bible say – that people are basically good, and simply in need of encouragement to work on their goodness, or as Eugene Petersen writes: Sin is not what is wrong with our minds; it is the catastrophic disorder in which we find ourselves at odds with God?
2. Are you more likely to define yourself by your sin or by your Saviour?
3. What spiritual rhythms assist us in keeping clear minded and self-controlled so that we can pray?
For personal reflection: is there someone in your life who could do with being loved deeply?
4. Peter again calls his readers to love deeply. Christian obedience is all about love. What does he mean by love covers over a multitude of sin? What does this tell us about God?
5. Peter reminds Christians to be hospitable. Throughout Scripture hospitality is considered one of the most important virtues. Why would hospitality have been so important for these first century Christians? Are you on high alert for the stranger among us every Sunday or do you just leave this to the welcome team? What are ways our hospitality can extend beyond a warm welcome?
6. Peter defines spiritual gifts as administering grace in its various forms. What gifts does Peter mention and what are the instructions for each? What ‘form’, or gift, energizes you as you are a channel of God’s grace to our church and beyond? Are you intentional in expressing this gift?
A Sacrificial (suffering) People: 1 Peter 4: 12-19
Open: What small thing brought you joy this week?
Dig Deeper and Our Story
1. Peter challenges his readers with the central paradox of the Christian faith:
- Don’t be surprised when suffering comes
- Find joy in your suffering What do these radical challenges pose to our Western assumptions?
What does it mean to share in the sufferings of Christ? For a graphic reminder of how Christ suffered read Isaiah 53.
2. Read Hebrews 12:2. In addition to sacrificial love why is sacrificial joy also referred to as Jesus endured the cross. Why sacrificial joy? How can this truth shape how we too can find joy in the midst of dashed dreams?
Can you describe a time when traveling through the lonely journey of pain and loss you have discovered joy? What did you learn about praying during such times?
3. Lewis Smedes asks this probing question: Where do we get the power to feel another person’s hurt, keep feeling it for a long time, no relief in sight, when we have enough pain of our own? How do we deal with frustration, disillusionment or tiredness that comes from suffering alongside others?
4. Although we do not face persecution for our faith, what are some ways in which we may face ridicule for our faith?What is our responsibility to those who live in places where ‘faith costs the most’? Open Doors reports on some alarming trends in persecution:
- Five years ago, only North Korea was in the ‘extreme’ category for its level of persecution of Christians. Today, 11 countries score high enough to fit that label.
- A new alarming tactic is to threaten to rape a church leader’s wife and young children
- Islamic State vow to wipe out Christians by terrorising communities with targeted murders
How are we to pray and support persecuted brothers and sisters? For more information go to www.opendoors.
5. Philip Yancey writes that in his experience generally the Western church prays for suffering to be removed whereas the persecuted church prays for strength to cope with the suffering. What do we learn from this?
Pray for the persecuted church, especially the church in Sri Lanka.
Pray for anyone in your group who is going through a difficult period of suffering.
Open: What’s the best service you’ve experienced?
A Servant People: 1 Peter 5: 1-14
Dig Deeper and Our Story
1. Peter gives the same instructions to the elders that Jesus gave him (John 21:16). Why were these instructions important during their time of persecution? Discuss his imperative to lead by example as opposed to practicing domineering self-assertion.
Can you describe someone who models servant leadership?
Are you easy to lead? Why or why not?
2. What image stands out for you as Peter writes Shepherds must be eager to serve?
3. Note that Peter does not instruct his readers to feel humble or to pray for humility, but to clothe yourself with humility. What are some ways we give humility expression?
4. Peter encourages believers in the midst of their suffering to cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. The root word for casting is epiriplein, which means ‘to throw upon’. What image comes to mind as you think of ‘throwing’ your anxieties onto God?
The tense in this exhortation suggests a single decisive action – our anxiety is no longer on us.Read and discuss the following verses of presence and promise: Isaiah 26:3; Matthew 6:25-35.Share with the group how you are learning to throw your anxieties onto God or where you need help.
For personal reflection: As we come to the end of the sermon series and study on 1 Peter, what strikes you about Peter’s ending remarks (vs 8-10)? In what ways has Peter’s letter deepened your relationship with Jesus?