How to Read 1 Peter

The Book of 1 Peter


Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

First Peter encourages the early church to persevere through persecution.  This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the structure of 1 Peter, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use these questions as a guide as you watch this video.  



Now that you have an overview of 1 Peter in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in 1 Peter. Read 1 Peter 1:1–9. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about 1 Peter 1:1–9.   

1 Peter 1:1-9 (ESV)

Greeting

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Born Again to a Living Hope

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: Peter said God acted according to His great mercy.  

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about 1 Peter 1:1–9? (Consider the author, locations, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) Peter said God acted according to His great mercy. (Interpretation) Salvation isn't something we deserve. We only receive salvation through God's abundant mercy. 

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of 1 Peter 1:1–9? How does its message connect with the main message of all of 1 Peter? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: God extends His mercy to His people throughout the Old Testament. Even though Israel constantly failed God, He remained faithful to them. In Christ, we receive God's mercy and can experience forgiveness and reconciliation through faith in Jesus.

Contextualize: What themes does 1 Peter 1:1–9 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the book of 1 Peter? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Old Testament?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: Acknowledging that I am only brought into the family God by God's mercy and grace on my life changes my mindset. I see salvation as a gift that I did not deserve. In light of God's mercy in my life, I extend the same mercy to others by forgiving those who wrong me, loving my enemies, and serving those who cannot repay me.

Apply: How does the truth from 1 Peter 1:1–9 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of 1 Peter to your life this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.   

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about 1 Peter, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through 1 Peter this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice. 


To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.