1 Peter was a very difficult book for me to outline. I am a very structural and organized thinker. What I mean is, for me to understand something, I need to organize it and structure it in my mind. So, outlining is a great tool for me to understand scripture. But, Peter doesn't seem to be exactly that type of thinker! Peter seems to often be going off on little trails of thought before coming back to the original topic.
It took me a long time to find a theme for the book. A couple of themes stood out. Suffering is a prominent theme. But, it doesn't seem to cover everything he's talking about in the epistle. Submission is another big theme. But, it definitely isn't what the entire book is about.
It wasn't until I read through 1 Peter in the NLT (New Living Translation) that I saw that Peter tells us what the theme is in his closing remarks.
I don't use the NLT for regular reading, but when I'm studying a passage or a book, I love to read it. It's like a running commentary. It's not a literal translation, so there's a lot of interpretation going into each verse and it gives you a great perspective you may not have otherwise considered.
The NLT translates 1 Peter 5:12 like this:
I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.
1 Peter 5:12 (NLT)
The NASB (New American Standard Bible), which I prefer for normal reading and studying, translates it like this:
Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
1 Peter 5:12 (NASB)
The NLT seemed to highlight that Peter is giving us the purpose of his letter. That is, he is exhorting and testifying as to what is the true grace of God.
If this really was the theme, then most everything else in the epistle should be able to be organized under that theme in one way or another. Warren Wiersbe's outline in his Wiersbe's Expository Outlines of the New Testament really helped me (if you're a Logos user, I recommend getting it here).
His outline showed me how the other themes I had noticed in the book (suffering and submission) could be organized under the main theme of "the true grace of God". In other words, how do we see, experience and reflect the true grace of God in salvation (1 Peter 1:3-2:10)? In submission (1 Peter 2:11-3:12)? In suffering (1 Peter 3:13-4:19)? In humility (1 Peter 5:1-11)?
Here's the outline I landed on. It's very close to Wiersbe's, but with a few differences that made more sense to me.
Theme: The true grace of God (1 Peter 5:12)
God's true grace is revealed in salvation, submission, suffering and humility.
i. Greeting (1:1-2) a. From Peter (1:1a) b. To the dispersed chosen (1:1b) c. Comfort and purpose (1:2a) i. God had foreknowledge of their dispersion ii. It has purpose 1) Sanctification in the Spirit 2) Practicing obedience 3) Sprinkling of the blood of Christ (evangelism) d. Blessing (1:2b) ii. True grace revealed in salvation (1:3-2:10) a. We have hope (1:3-12) i. Because we have an inheritance (1:3-4) ii. Because we are protected (1:5-6a) iii. Because the genuineness of our faith is proven (1:6b-7) iv. Because faith results in our salvation (1:8-9) v. Because we were in God's plan from the start (1:10-12) b. We have purpose (1:13-2:3) i. To set our hope properly (1:13) ii. To not conform (1:14) iii. To be holy (1:15-16) iv. To conduct ourselves with fear (1:17-21) v. To love one another earnestly (1:22-25) vi. To grow up in salvation (2:1-3) c. We have identity (2:4-10) i. A spiritual house (2:4-8) ii. A special people (2:9-10) iii. True grace revealed in submission (2:11-3:12) a. Why? For the purpose of glorifying God (2:11-12) b. Submission as citizens (2:13-17) c. Submission as servants (2:18-25) d. Submission as married ones (3:1-7) i. As wives (3:1-6) ii. As husbands (3:7) e. Submission to each other (3:8-12) iv. True grace revealed in suffering (3:13-4:19) a. Suffer for good, not evil (3:13-22) b. Purpose to suffer (4:1-11) c. Summary (4:12-19) i. Expect trials, it is testing (4:12) ii. Rejoice in suffering (4:13) iii. If you are reviled, you are blessed (4:14) iv. Suffer as a Christian, not an evil doer (4:15-16) v. Judgement is coming (4:17-18) d. Trust your faithful creator (4:19) v. True grace revealed in humility (5:1-11) a. As elders (5:1-4) b. As young men (5:5) c. As anyone (5:6-11) vi. Farewell (5:12-14)