1 Peter - Lesson 1
By Curt Niccum
1 Peter 1:1-2
Background Information for the Teacher
- The class can describe the positive social implications of being full citizens of God’s kingdom.
- The class can also explain the negative social implications of being “resident aliens.”
- The class can identify words and phrases in the letter’s address that express God’s total devotion to His people.
- Bibles for every student
- Copies of the worksheet for lesson #1
- 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 theChristians 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 address of the letter,verses 1-2, Peter emphasizes both these points by 1) noting that God set them apart and by 2)identifying them as resident aliens.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Devotional Period (5-10 minutes)
- Read 1 Peter 1:1-2
- Sing two songs (choose from the following)
- This World is Not My Home
- To Canaan’s Land I’m on My Way
- We’re Marching to Zion
- Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
- For missionaries who literally are resident aliens
- For the congregation to become a closer knit community
Introduction (7-10 minutes)
- Welcome visitors.
- Distribute study sheets.
- 1 Peter is a book focused on holiness.
- Q: What is holiness? (“Holiness” is church language. I doubt that any American has used the word apart from a religious setting. Thus it may be incomprehensible to nonChristians in the class, but may also be misunderstood by some of the “regulars.”)
- The typical church answer is “being set apart,” but this is insufficient. Should this or something similar be offered, try associating this idea with quality control. For example, one could use an agricultural analogy: “When sorting through fruit or vegetables, a produce company will set apart bruised, molded, or worm eaten specimens. Is that what we mean by holiness?”C. A: “Holiness” means set apart or distinct like God.
Learning Experiences (20-30 minutes)
- The title of this quarter’s class is “Resident Aliens: A Study of 1 Peter”
- “Resident aliens” is Peter’s term for the church, and it occurs in the very first verse.This phrase (one word in the Greek) powerfully conveys the essence of holy living.(Some may not know what a resident alien is. You might explain that in the UnitedStates they are foreigners who carry green cards. The green card allows certain privileges not typically granted foreigners because their stay in the country is longer than normal. Most foreigners come with tourist visas.)
- Q: What comes to mind when you think of “resident aliens” or “foreigners”? A: This is an open-ended question, so all answers will be appropriate.
- Q: In our culture, how can you identify a resident alien? A: Have the class list several characteristics. Among these can be their speech, their dress, their language,their customs, and even their smell.
- Q: With whom do foreigners usually spend the most time? (American citizens or other foreigners?) A: Foreigners tend to group with foreigners. Most large cities have large populations of foreigners that live in the same neighborhoods.
- Q: Why do you suppose they do that? A: Foreigners want to feel as comfortable as possible, so they tend to congregate with those having a similar background.Grouping together also helps preserve one’s national identity, language, and customs.
- Q: What might Peter be implying about the church when he calls them resident aliens and foreigners? A: First, the class should be able to list a number of things based on their answers to the previous questions. Christians differ from the world in speech, dress, and customs. Second, the ramifications of those differences include a positive relationship with God, but also a negative relationship with the world.
- Q: How does the description of Christians as “resident aliens” relate to our definition of “holiness”? A: If we are set apart like God, then we truly are “aliens” to this world.Our task is to remain untainted by the unhealthy environment around us.
- Certainly the phrase “resident aliens” carries with it these negative and positive connotations, but it is just one of three very important designations of the church given inverse one. All three terms typically described “Israel.” Peter’s use of these words to describeGentile Christians underlines the full citizenship they enjoy in God’s kingdom, a right previously restricted to Jews.
- Elect: the people whom God Himself has chosen. It notes the positive social relationship Christians share with God and other Christians.
- Resident Aliens: a phrase used to identify Jews of the “diaspora” (Jews living among pagans outside of Palestine, the promised land. Note the parallels now toChristians longing for the new promised land, heaven.) This notes the negative social relationship Christians have in the world. Christians do not belong. Others tend to marginalize them at best, or persecute them at worst. The world despises Christians precisely because they have a heavenly citizenship.
- Scattered: or “dispersion” translates the Greek word “diaspora” (see above). It reflected the uniqueness of Jewish existence as well as the exiled character of the people. Previously, exile was viewed as divine punishment. With Christ it becomes divine blessing. God’s Kingdom now has no borders, and being scattered enables evangelism.
- Peter’s use of these terms convinced many scholars that he was addressing JewishChristians, but this overlooks the clear evidence later in the letter and completely misses the point. Peter, by using these terms, emphasizes that Gentiles are not some forgotten group of people that God admitted into the kingdom on a whim late in human history. It was God’s plan all along, and the Gentiles are as much a part ofHis people as the Jews.
- Peter drives home this last point with three phrases in verse two, each describing how theGentiles came to be included among God’s people.
- “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”:The salvation of all peoples was not an afterthought with God, but part of the plan set in place before creation.The choosing of the Gentiles is associated with the choosing of Christ (vs. 20). This phrase further defines what it means to be “the elect” or “the chosen.”
- “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit”: It is the presence of God’s own Spirit that sets us apart like God. The Spirit of God indwells the believing Gentiles, thus they need not worry, even in the face of persecution, about their standing before God.
- “for obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”: Whereas the two previous phrases focus on God’s activity in bringing Gentiles to salvation, this phrase refers to human activity; the obedience of true believers and the (human) blood of the new covenant shed by Jesus Christ. This introduces the moral and ethical component of membership in the Kingdom of God, a topic that will be raised in the letter. The reference to “obedience” and “sprinkling” allude to the earlier covenant(see Exodus 24:7-8). The new covenant, however, is made with all believers, not just those of Jewish descent.
- Within just a few words Peter has made it clear that the Gentile Christians he addresses have a secure (“chosen” by God), heavenly citizenship (“resident aliens”) despite their living in the midst of this world (“dispersed”). Furthermore, Peter reinforces the quality of this citizenship by noting its origin in God’s eternal plan, its bestowal by the Holy Spirit, and its high ethical standard of obedience ratified by Jesus’ blood.
Application (5-10 minutes)
- Have the class reflect on what types of feelings the first two verses of this letter might have created in the churches who first heard it read.
- Have the class then discuss whether the passage studied inspires the same type of feelings today.
- Discuss as a class what ways members of your congregation live like “resident aliens” and are “holy.” (Look for concrete examples.)
- Discuss areas in which the congregation could make distinctions between it and the world sharper.
Assignment (2-5 minutes)
- Each class member should look for things said or done in the next week that reinforce the idea that s/he is a “resident alien.”
- Mention that the “Travel Tip” section is meant to provide helps for greater insight into the study of 1 Peter and challenge each member to read the entire letter during the next week and answer the question at the end of the “Travel Tip” for discussion in class next time.
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