1 Peter is written to gentile Christians who lived in the northern part of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later part of the first century. There is some debate among scholars about whether Peter, himself, wrote the letter or whether it was written by a follower of Peter.
The letter is written to comfort Christians who are suffering and perhaps even persecuted for their faith. Scholars do not think the suffering the letter addresses included martyrdom because of the way the suffering in discussed. The letter’s emphasis is on endurance in suffering as Christ suffered, rather than martyrdom ending in death. Because Christians did not participate in many of the festivals and customs of the Roman world, they were ostracized and persecuted. The letter appears to address a community which is intentionally different than it’s fellow citizens and neighbors. The author councils the church to be true to their beliefs but also to get along with their neighbors by their good behavior. These are Christians who are trying to live faithfully within a dominant culture. Notice how the author counsels the church to act toward society and how the church should think about itself. Also notice three aspects of Christian identity emphasized in this letter, faith and hope in God, baptism, and imitation of the suffering Jesus.
I. A New Person in Christ and How to React 1:1-2:10
A. Greeting 1:1-2
B. The Christian’s New Situation Thanksgiving 1:3-12
C. How to React 1:13-2:3
D. A New People, Strange to Others 2:4-10
II. Appropriate Conduct for a New People in Christ 2:11-4:11
A. How to React to the World 2:11-3:7
B. How to React in the Christian Fellowship 3:8-12
C. Christ’s Fate has Ultimate Importance 3:13-22
D. A New LIfe Now and a New Time Coming 4:1-11
III. Appropriate Behavior in the Hostile World and in the Christian Community 4:12-5:14
A. How to React in the World 4:12-19
B. How Church Leaders and Followers are to React 5:1-6
C. How Members are to React 5:7-11
D. Closing Greetings 5:12-14
Read More About It
Achtemeier, Paul J. “1 Peter” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 21 “1 Peter”.
Quanbeck, Warren A., Pheme Perkins, “1 Peter” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.