Peter was one of the 12 Apostles, and he thought he had no fear and could do anything. Yeshua at least twice rescued him from situations he got himself into because of thinking that he was not afraid of anything: once, when Peter walked on the water, until he was afraid; second, when he went into the courtyard of the high priest on the night that Yeshua was betrayed and arrested: Peter was afraid to admit that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, or that he even knew Him. The Apostle Paul also confronted Peter in his fear: Peter was more afraid of the Jewish leaders who were still trying to keep the Law, than continuing in the freedom of the gospel in the fear of the Lord. Peter’s fear of man was at the expense of the truth of the gospel. Peter humbly accepted Paul’s courageous and necessary rebuke; and he learned from it, commending Paul for the wisdom which God had given him regarding the implications of the gospel. (Gal 2:11-16; 2Pt 3:14-16)
Peter’s over-self-confidence gave him to think that he was able to cope in any situation, and he was usually the first among the apostles to react or respond to a question or a challenge. Peter was a typical Israeli!
When Peter denied the Messiah on the night that Jesus was betrayed, it was a humiliating experience which forever changed him into becoming the man of God that he became, both unto the Lord, in his relationship with the other apostles, and in his care for the sheep in God’s house and family. He learned the grace and mercy of God for all of us who also fail in crucial situations as disciples, but whose hearts are set on Jesus. If we are going to be used by God for His glory, we will, like Peter, need to pass through the fire to get rid of “self”, so that the glory is the Lord’s in whom we are and do what we do. We must die to ourselves in order to live unto God: the cross is our only way to glory. Yeshua changed Simon Bar-Jonah’s name to Peter/Cephas – “stone” – when Peter confessed that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And upon the “rock” of that confession of Peter’s – who Yeshua/Jesus is – the Lord is building His church. (Mt 16:18; 1Jn 2:22-25) Peter reminds us of this in his epistle that we are living stones being built up into a holy habitation for God upon the chief corner stone, Jesus. We are flawed people, like Peter, whom God has chosen to abase the proud, especially after we humble ourselves in light of the truth.
Peter loved Yeshua, and this distinguished him from Judas Iscariot. But Peter needed to learn that his life and hope is in Yeshua, and not of himself and his own capabilities. This is the lesson that Jacob had to learn in order to become Israel; this is the lesson that the unbelieving Jewish people need to learn if they want to be saved from their enemies and from themselves.
Peter was chosen by Jesus to go through the open door which the Lord had opened for the gospel to go also to the Gentiles, and not to the Jews only. From this Peter realized that the God of the Jews is also the God of the Gentiles, and He saves them and accepts them in the very same manner that He does His chosen people. This revelation and enlightenment prepared Peter for his particular calling: to be the Apostle to the circumcision – to the Jews; whereas Paul was called to be especially the Apostle to the Gentiles. (Gal 2:7-8) YHVH, in His wisdom, chose a religiously unlearned Israeli – Peter – to go to his own Jewish people, including to their religious leaders; and Paul, the learned Jew in both Judaism and in Gentile culture, was sent to primarily preach the gospel of salvation and the Kingdom of God to the pagan world.
I find it worth considering about Peter’s ministry to the Messianic Jews in particular, that he neither preached nor wrote ANYTHING about keeping the Sabbath, eating kosher, or keeping the holidays. (Neither, by the way, did James, who also wrote in his epistle to the Israeli believers in the dispersion.)
Peter’s epistles are not written to a local church, or to an individual. He wrote his epistle to the Jewish believers living in a region outside the God-promised Land of Israel, to a region where many Jews from there had also come to Jerusalem for that Pentecost/Shavuot celebration after the Lord’s ascension to glory, and had heard Peter preach repentance and faith in Yeshua for salvation. (1Pt 1:1; Acts 2:9; 2Pt 3:1) Yet the theology, the doctrines, the way of this life are for all believers: we are all pilgrims and sojourners in a land and world not ours, since our citizenship is in Heaven. We are witnesses and ambassadors here for the true God and Lord, whose kingdom is not of this world, a world hostile to Him who created and made it!
Peter wrote his epistles at a time when heavy persecution was about to come upon those who were called Christians, followers of the Christ/Messiah, for their faith in a King who required their primary and utmost allegiance. (1Pt 4:16) Patriotism to our earthly nation is not the evidence of being a true disciple of Yeshua/Jesus, even if we, in obedience to Him, are usually model citizens and seek the peace and good of whatever city or country we live in. (1Pt 4:15; 2:11-17; Rom 13; 1Tim 2:1-6; Jer 29:4-7) For example, if an Israeli believer and an Iranian believer used patriotic nationalism as their testimony of their faith in Jesus, where would be the truth of the gospel and of our hope as one new man in Christ, and of salvation in no other name but Yeshua/Jesus? Where would be our testimony of the coming of the Lord to judge the nations and to save the full remnant of all the tribes of Israel, establishing His Kingdom over all the Earth? Peter addresses these issues as believers in the face of severe tribulation for our faith.
He is writing to the Jewish believers in the dispersion. This means that the verses in 1Pt 2:9-10 also refer first of all to the remnant of Jewish believers now who have returned and been restored to their covenant relationship with YHVH through becoming believers in the promised Messiah – the Son of David, Son of Abraham, Son of Man, Son of God. (Hos 1:6-11) Although what is written there can also be applied to all Gentile believers in the Body of Christ – there are other places in the New Testament which speak to this. (Rom 9:24-26; Eph 2:11-22) Peter is writing here to the Jewish believers, who, by God’s mercy and covenantal grace are fulfilling God’s calling upon all [the tribes of] Israel to be a kingdom of priests, and to be His holy people and inheritance among the nations. (Ex 19:3-6; Is 19:24-25) The present remnant is a pledge of the future Israel of God during the Millennial Kingdom, when the redeemed nation of Israel will fulfill her destiny. At the same time, this same Jewish remnant is part and representative of the whole Body of Christ, which is also destined to be a kingdom of priests with the Lord, ruling and reigning together in glorified bodies during the Millennial over Israel and the nations. (Rev 20:4-6) he Holy Spirit is maintaining through these Scriptures that the Church and Israel are related, yet distinct. God has not finished with Israel, His chosen people and land: there is no valid “replacement theology”, and believing and obedient Christians have a better hope and promises by virtue of our new birth by the Spirit of God and already being forgiven for all our sins through repentance and faith in the gospel. We always need the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God to cleanse us, since we are never in this body this side of the resurrection perfectly obedient or faithful. Just like Peter!
The apostle learned personally what he advises other spiritual leaders among the flock of God: “Be sober, be vigilant. Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1Pt 5:8-11)
Peter is writing to us about how we are to practically live in holiness and with love in countries and a world among people hostile to the truth of who Jesus Christ is — even within the churches — as we keep our focus on the coming of the Lord and of His kingdom, and on the New Heavens and New Earth for eternity, where our eternal ‘homeland’ will be.