1 Peter introduction
We know a lot about Peter.
Simon Peter from the gospels. A fisherman from Bethsaida.
Introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew (John 1:41) “We found the messiah”
Trained with the 12 apostles (Matthew 4 – Acts 1)
Acts 2 – 12 show us 12 years of ministry
Acts 15, 1 & 2 Peter give us a picture of the latter part of his ministry
1 Peter appears to be written from Rome … Ch 5 verse 13 he uses the word Babylon. In the OT it is a symbol of Godless prosperity (see Isaiah 14). Revelation uses Babylon as a symbol for Rome.
Key moments in his story
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
- Rebukes Jesus when he revealed the nature of his death – no way ….get behind me satan
Matt 26:51-54 – Using force at the time of Jesus’ arrest
All who draw the sword will die by the sword…. Legions of angels at my disposal
John 21:15-22 – After famously denying that he knew Jesus. Asked him 3 times “do you love me?” It's almost like Jesus was saying “Look I can cope with who you are and all your flaws as long as you truly love me”
Acts 2 - Ushered in the church at Pentecost … inaugural sermon
Acts 10-11 – Challenged to rethink his theology … Full acceptance of Gentiles as believers.
He was married – we know that Jesus healed his mother in law and Paul mentioned in passing that Peter took his wife on his missionary journeys.
1 Peter is a letter of warmth and maturity. Different to the brash fisherman who seemingly blundered his way through the early years of ministry. It’s a letter of appeal and yet still strong and impassioned with conviction.
Just before Nero’s persecution so approx. 63 or 64ad. Persecution under Nero was particularly intense. The fire of 64ad was blamed on the xians “Didn’t they say the world would end with fire” …he wanted to tear down the old city and build new impressive buildings.
Xians were tortured, made to wear animal skins and crawl on the floor of the amphitheatre and be eaten by lions and other animals. Nero used them as human torches in his garden. Peter himself would die during this period
Christians in 5 provinces of Asia minor (modern day Turkey). If you look them up on the map … it could be the route that the letter took though that’s not an absolute certainty, it’s a possibility.
The churches were most likely made up primarily of gentile Christians. In chapter 1 vs 18 he refers to them being handed down the empty way of life from their forefathers. Quite an unlikely comment to an audience of Jewish origin.
Approx 30 years after the beginnings of this movement. Christian communities established in almost every major city of the Roman empire. As the churches grew …opposition also grew.
Jewish leaders who refused to accept Jesus as the promised messiah loudly criticized and persecuted the Christians. Followers of the local Gods., viewed the message of Christianity as a threat to their way of life. Political leaders viewed Christians as troublemakers.
The environment of the day…
Cult of emperor worship. Flourishing local religions. The empire required homage to be paid to the emperor for all citizens though Jews were exempt from this. Respect still given to local deities. Christians were in a difficult situation. They could not worship the emperor, the were despised by the jews and they did not fit in with the local religious customs which kept them out of the heartbeat of local life.
Asia Minor was an area of extremes of wealth and poverty. This was likely reflected in the church – references to slaves being the poorer end and references to wives and gold jewellery at the wealthier end.
Chapters 1-3 seem to indicate that there are trials and that unjust suffering is a possibility. In chapters 4-5 it seems a fierce ordeal is imminent possibly indicating the pending persecution under Nero. The word suffer in it’s various forms appears 18 times in this letter
Purpose of writing:
It seems that there is a fair amount of instruction about how to live in an increasingly hostile world. The temptation to compromise with the world around them must have been significant. Increasing opposition from almost every direction and persecution from the state. The message is loud and clear …Hold on to your identity as the people of God. It will be worth it.
What can we learn?:
For those of us in the Western world living under some form of democracy we have incredible religious freedom which although is a great privilege and blessing, we do encounter an amazing amount of religious diversity. Perhaps we receive some mild social rejection from time to time but we do not immediately face anything on the scale of those early Christians in Asia Minor.
However, as Christians we wrestle with how to engage with the world we live in, how to relate to it and connect with the people in this world of social and religious complexity whilst at the same time remaining distinctive and “set apart” .
The rich / poor divide maybe another issue for us to contemplate. How do we apply the instructions to our different positions in life?
The main thread of the message here though is to focus our hearts, minds, and life on the message of Jesus and the hope that we have in that and not in the hopelessness that is all around us.
Many of us do not face the kind of persecution that these early brothers and sisters would live under though if you are in a country where Christianity is not the majority religion or where freedom of religion is not possible, where you could lose your job for being a Christian or be imprisoned for opening a Bible or sentenced to death for attempting to share the gospel then you’ll get the picture loud and clear.
Peter’s letter is not about gloom and doom at all. The message is an appeal to trust in God especially in trials and difficulties as it is the trials and difficulties that we face that mature us and help us grow