The Epistles of Peter or a Study in Comparisons

The Epistles of Peter
or A Study in Comparisons

Robert McClurkin

Between the two Epistles of Peter there are many interesting comparisons. The first Epistle is based on the revelation given to Peter according to Matthew 16; the second is based on the glory unfolded to him according to Matthew 17. The first Epistle may be called the Epistle of the Wilderness; the second, that of the Kingdom. The first gives us the hope of God’s people in the light of present sufferings; the second, indicates their knowledge in the light of surrounding dangers. In the first, we see the grace of God (to which reference is made nine times) as the sufficiency to meet all the needs of God’s people; in the second, the grace of God as the sphere in which they ought to grow. Consequently, the first Epistle, in which Christians are seen to be a suffering people, ends with the statement, “This is the true grace of God”; whereas, the second, in which they are an enlightened people, ends with a complementary statement, “Grow in grace.” With an increase of knowledge comes the necessity to grow in grace. In the first Epistle the devil is likened to a roaring lion, but in the second, he is unseen, yet working, nevertheless, as an angel of light in the apostasy.

Peter writes to converts saved through Paul, Silas, and others in order to confirm them in what they had been taught (1 Epistle 1:1, 12; 5:12), and to assure them that his own teaching was the same as that of Paul (2 Epistle 3:15-16). These assertions prove that the General Epistles (those of James, Peter, John, and Jude) are for this present dispensation.

Let us consider certain characteristics of Peter’s Epistles:

Seven times the word “precious” is used by Peter. Three times he applies this word to Christ as the Living Stone, the Corner Stone, and the object of the believer’s faith (1 Epistle 2:4, 6, 7). Once he applies it to the blood of Christ (1 Epistle 1:18). Peter is the only writer in the Bible who uses an adjective to describe the blood shed by the Lord upon the cross. Twice Peter applies this word to the believer’s faith; first, to the gift of faith; second, to the trial of faith (1 Epistle 1:7). The last time he uses it is in connection with the promises of God which sustain faith (2 Epistle 1:4).

The Spirit of God is mentioned seven times throughout these two Epistles. In six of these references He is associated with the Word of God (1 Epistle 4:14).

The word “conversation” which describes the believer’s whole manner of life occurs eight times. Peter uses it to give us a fourfold view of the Christian’s life:

His preconversion life: This refers to his life before it was touched by the grace of God. It was “vain” and “filthy.” The word “vain” describes the religious side of his life; the word “filthy”, the moral side (1 Epistle 1:18. 2 Epistle 2:7).

His postconversion life: This depicts his life before the eye of God after divine grace had changed it. It should be “holy” because God’s character is imparted to him (1 Peter 1:15), and “holy” because of the hope that is set before him (2 Epistle 3:11).

His public life: The believer’s life before the eye of the world should be “honest” so that others may be won to Christ (1 Epistle 2:12), and “good” in order that his persecutors may be ashamed (1 Epistle 3:16).

His domestic life: Life in the Christian home ought to be “attractive” and “chaste” so that unsaved relatives, who will not listen to the Word of God, may be won to Christ, apart even from speaking to them (1 Epistle 3:1-2).

Peter views the Lord’s people as pilgrims on their journey to their inheritance; therefore, he compares the world to a wilderness through which they pass. He makes many comparisons between the Christian’s pilgrimage and Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan as covered by the books of Exodus and Numbers. For example, we have in these Epistles the pilgrim starting on this journey under the security of the sprinkled blood (1 Epistle 1:2), under the guidance of the pillar cloud (1 Epistle 4:14, 2 Epistle 1:19), under supervision of their God-given leader, Moses (1 Epistle 2:21), dressed in suitable attire (1 Epistle 1:13), enjoying the tabernacle with its priesthood and sacrifices (1 Epistle 2:5), drinking of the water from the smitten rock (1 Epistle 2:8), fighting Amalek, the enemy in the way (1 Epistle 2:11), progressing in spite of false prophets like Balaam who were ready to curse them (2 Epistle 2:15-16), entering into their land of promise (2 Epistle 1:10-11), and possessing at long last their inheritance (1 Epistle 1:4-5; 2 Epistle 3:13).