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 constantly be going off on little trails of thought as he thinks of just one more thing he wants to say about something before coming back to the original topic.
For a while, I couldn't even really find a theme to the book. Of course, suffering is a prominent theme. But, it doesn't seem to be all he's talking about. 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 realized 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 because it's essentially 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. Such was the case with 1 Peter 5:12, for me:
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.
Compare that to the NASB (New American Standard Bible), which I prefer for normal reading and studying:
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!
Once I read the NLT I couldn't read the NASB any other way: Peter is giving us the purpose of his letter. That is, to exhort and testify as to what is the true grace of God. We should stand firm in it!
Having found the theme, I was looking for the outline that fit. I thought I had the basic divisions of the book down, but I was having a terrible time naming each division. I eventually found Warren Wiersbe's outline in his Wiersbe's Expository Outlines of the New Testament and things suddenly clicked (if you're Logos user, I recommend getting here).
This made the other themes of the book make a lot more sense. 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)? Suddenly, the outline of the book was quite clear 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)