Stand Fast in the True Grace of God!: A Study of 1 Peter

The discourse organization of 1 Peter presents an interesting and rather complicated mixture of biblical instruction and practical exhortation, each of which complements the other to make a clear testimony to “the true grace of God” as revealed in Jesus Christ (5:12). The stated purpose of this epistle is to encourage believers to remain steadfast in faith and hope while manifesting purity of life as the “called and elect” of God in the face of some strong opposition, temptation, and persecution (5:8-11). The aim of my investigation is to suggest how several prominent stylistic characteristics of this letter—namely: recursion, contrast, comparison, review, and disjunction—serve to outline the overall structure of the text, to highlight its principal themes, and to enhance the effectiveness of its major pragmatic functions. These five rhetorically motivated techniques are manifested in conjunction with the deliberate recycling of a small but significant set of semantic fields that focus upon the theological and ethical issues of Christian suffering, steadfastness, sanctification, and salvation in relation to the new people—priesthood of God. This serious but hope-filled theme is effectively exposited as part of the author’s argument by means of periodic reminders of the fundamental kerygma of Christ and the basic teaching of the apostolic church, coupled with a selection of key references to the Old Testament. The rhetorical dimension of this discourse is subsequently explored through the application of a multifaceted structure-of-argument model. My study concludes with a discussion of several important hermeneutical implications and cautions that arise from this analysis with regard to communicating the special relevance of the central message of I Peter via Bible translation in the sociocultural setting of Bantu Africa, especially to people who live in a present-day situation of spiritual trial and physical suffering.

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