We grow as Christians as God transforms us “into the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). The New Testament unabashedly professes that we become more like Jesus as we share in His suffering (Romans 8:17-18; 1 Peter 4:13). No letter articulates this with quite the clarity or hope as in 1 Peter.

According to Peter, the glory of Christ is revealed through His suffering, which brings freedom to sinful mankind. The cross is the path of exaltation and is revealed to be the way God works in the world. The call to follow Christ’s example is a call to entrust oneself completely to God, even though it ensures suffering. The cross of Christ in this letter provides the standard by which those who follow Him are to both suffer and serve.

In Peter’s view, the calling of the church is to follow the example of Jesus who entrusted Himself to God amidst suffering (1 Peter 2:20-21). By accepting the trials brought upon them on account of Christ, the Christian community follows in Christ’s steps; humbling themselves “under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6). This phrase (“mighty hand of God”) is used frequently in the Exodus story, and makes clear what Peter is saying to the “exiles” in Asia Minor. The apostle encourages them that, just as God delivered His people from their suffering in Egypt with His mighty hand, so too will He exalt the church at the proper time (1 Peter 2:9-10; 5:6).

The introduction of the Exodus, however, brings a warning with its promise. After being delivered from slavery, the people of Israel refused to trust God’s care for them in the wilderness, wishing instead to return to their former bondage (Exodus 16:2-3). Peter’s call for the Christian community to accept their humiliations by casting their cares upon the God who cares for them, is a call to follow Jesus’ example of submission rather than Israel’s rebellion. In trusting God amidst suffering, Peter calls his readers to remain sober-minded and awake because of the schemes of “your adversary the devil” (1 Peter 5:8).

The command to be sober-minded is a command Peter gives two additional times in his letter, each time in his anticipation of the second coming of Christ. In 1 Peter 1:13-15, Peter calls his audience to remain sober-minded in holiness so that they might set all their hope on the coming of Jesus. Peter calls his audience in 1 Peter 4:7 to sober-mindedness for the sake of their prayers as the end draws near. The sober and watchful are those who reject the bondage of their former ignorance and are holy in all their conduct (1 Peter 1:14-15).

This is the letter’s first mention of a cosmic enemy and introduces a new dimension to Peter’s understanding of Christian suffering. By pointing to the devil as the source of their suffering, Peter shifts his reader’s eyes from the human beings who afflict them to the struggle against God and His people.

Like a roaring lion, this adversary prowls in search of those who, perhaps because of their suffering, would return to their former desires (1 Peter 1:14) and abandon the example of Christ (1 Peter 2:21). Peter calls his audience to resist the devil’s overtures as those who are steadfast in faith. Peter reminds his readers that they are not alone in their suffering; it is the shared experience of those who proclaim the name “Christ” (1 Peter 5:9).

In this letter, Peter encourages his readers that this is what it means to be a part of the household of God. The Christian can remain steadfast amidst suffering because they can see their suffering transformed in Christ’s crucifixion. In Christ’s life, suffering was the path to exaltation, and His affliction was the means through which our salvation is given. To follow the One who suffered dishonor and rejection for the sake of others is to follow Him through suffering. Peter tells his readers that this suffering is only for a short time (1 Peter 5:10). As they’ve followed Him through suffering, so too will they follow Him to the presence of the Father who will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish them (1 Peter 5:10).

In short, the mighty hand that delivered Israel from Egypt will deliver those who are called in Christ out of passing suffering and into eternal glory. The threat of the adversary will be no more, neither will there be anxieties left to cast. In the words of Revelation, on that day “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

In this letter, Peter places the scandal of the cross before our eyes and asks if we believe this gospel. If so, we grow as we follow in Christ’s steps, knowing that those who have shared in His sufferings will rejoice, the humble will receive from the God of all grace, and we shall receive the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.