Reading Peter’s letters is quite different than reading Paul’s. Paul was a scholar trained in biblical academics, which involves focusing in on meaning. It usually means looking at something with a microscope in order to clarify what sometimes appears to be minutia. Peter, who came to Christ as an uneducated fisherman (though he most certainly did not remain so), turns the microscope around, which turns it into a telescope.
So, while Paul is often focused on the inner, personal realities of faithfulness, Peter is focused on the grand scheme of Christ’s mission in the world. Where Paul was focused on particulars, Peter was focused on the whole. While understanding Paul involves the personal experience of the Holy Spirit through regeneration, understanding Peter builds on regeneration and takes in the whole sweep of human history in the light of Christ. Peter understood history as the Old Testament. He had nor needed any other history book. As such, reading Peter without more than a passing familiarity with the Old Testament will surely lead you astray. Peter brought his ordinary understanding and experience of Jesus Christ to the Old Testament and built upon it. In Paul’s writing we find history brought to faithfulness, while in Peter’s writings we find faithfulness brought to history. Paul was focused microscopically, while Peter was focused macroscopically. So, while reading Paul clarifies the details, reading Peter magnifies the vastness of Christ’s mission to the world.
This book reads Peter’s first letter with the eyes of modern, post-resurrection faithfulness, as if Peter was writing to us. And inasmuch as he was writing to all the saints, he was. In these page we will see how Peter’s vision of the progressive revelation of Christ in history fueled the scientific and technological revolutions that have already created a new world.
Rather, God’s grace is revealed by unjust suffering and the preservation of faithfulness in the face of fury. That’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross. And that is why His story continues to attract masses of people. First and foremost, such suffering and faithfulness in circumstances unworthy of such a response runs so much against the grain of human behavior that it demands our attention. It forces a question, unlike the exercise of justice, which simply provides an answer. People usually have no questions about just punishment for sin. It is sometimes called comeuppance. But grace and poise in the face of personal harm, kindness in the face of abuse, love in response to hate, these things foist questions upon all who observe them.
Why doesn’t he fight back? Why is he being treated that way? Whence comes his strength, his grace, his poise?
This is the question that God most wants to plant in the hearts of unbelievers because it is the question that only Christ can answer. This question cannot be driven into people, like a stake into the heart. It cannot be planted in anyone’s mind, except by the power of God. This is the question whose answer is the grace of God alone. Causing this question to well up in the hearts of people is the goal of all evangelism.
Evangelism should not attempt to provide an answer to various spiritual questions that people have. Evangelism should not be an attempt to answer questions for unbelievers because unbelievers cannot understand the correct answers until they become believers. So, it is worse than a waste of time to try to answer the questions of unbelievers because it puts the answers in the wrong context. Evangelism is not an answer.
It is a question. The heart of the gospel is best communicated by the astonishment of seeing grace under fire. The best method of evangelism answers a question that cannot be asked, that cannot even be conceived by unbelievers until they are shocked out of their unbelief.
Real evangelism travels best across bridges of astonishment and amazement that the engrained and ingrown patterns of anger and revenge that so dominate all human experience are broken by nothing discernible to the naked eye. The astonishment of seeing good returned for evil plants a question that can only be answered by the love of Jesus Christ. The amazement of seeing unjust suffering borne and engaged with gentle kindness and forgiveness burns a searing question into those who see it. That is the question that the Lord is looking for. Ask that question and you will be saved.