you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed.
1 Peter 4:16
Church of Christ
Winter Quarter 2019-20
Introduction to Study
1st Peter was written to a widespread community of Christians who lived in a morally shameless culture. The description of the world around them was that of a moral cesspool of “sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” (1 Pet. 4:3). The pressure put on Christians to conform to the amoral culture around them was great. “They are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.” (1 Pet. 4:4).
Intolerance for the high moral standards of Christians was growing. “They speak against you as evil doers,’ (1 Pet. 2:12); “You do good and suffer for it.” (2:20); and, good behavior was slandered and reviled (3:16).
1 Peter warned Christians that things were going to get worse before they got better. “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you.” (4:12).
It is not unusual for Christians in 21st century America to feel that their belief in and committed practice of Judeo-Christian morality and ethics puts them in a cultural minority. Technically, Christians in America are not yet in the minority, but research indicates declining numbers in people of faith.
Not only that, but Christians often feel they are regarded as the “bad guys” for holding to biblical standards. If a Christian speaks out publically identifying scripturally condemned, but culturally ordained behaviors as “sin”, they are likely to be slandered and reviled.
Furthermore, Christians suspect that pushback is going to get worse before it get better. The fiery trial scenario looms.
Still, God’s call to his people is, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:16). “Yet, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Pet. 4:16).
This is the message of 1st Peter.
Be Secure 1 Peter 1:1-2
Be Motivated 1 Peter 1:3-9
Be Great 1 Peter 1:10-12
Be Holy 1 Peter 1:13-21
Be Loving 1 Peter 1:22-2:1
Be Mature 1 Peter 2:2-12
Be Submissive 1 Peter 2:13-3:7
Be Righteous 1 Peter 3:8-17
Be Decisive 1 Peter 4:1-11
Be Unashamed 1 Peter 4:12-19
Be Humble 1 Peter 5:1-5
Be Unified 1 Peter 5:6-14
Be Secure, 1 Pet. 1:1-2
To those who are elect
1 Peter 1:1-2 are the introductory verses of this letter. Peter, the apostle (and eyewitness, 5:1) of Jesus Christ is the author. He is likely writing from Rome in the early days of the administration of Nero as Caesar, perhaps A.D. 62-63. Nero would become a notorious persecutor of Christians across the Roman Empire.
This letter is addressed to Christians in specifically named regions of the empire grouped in the northern tier of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Christians in these areas were under varying degrees of local pressures to conform to the philosophies and practices of the empire. Allegiance to Jesus put them in an uncomfortable position socially and politically.
Description of the Recipients
Elect – The Bible traces a succession of God’s elect people. God chose Abraham and Sara (Gen. 12:1-3). Through Isaac and then Jacob (Israel) with his sons, God chose the Israelite nation (Deut. 7:6-8). Finally, in Christ, all who are of faith are the chosen, the elect (Gal. 3:26-29).
Exiles – Abraham and Sarah were sojourners in a land not their own. Israel as a nation formed as slaves in Egypt. In the days of Daniel, Esther, and Ezekiel, the Jews suffered exile to Babylon. Likewise, Christians are pilgrims and sojourners in the world awaiting the place/age of God’s preparation (Heb. 11:13-16).
Dispersed – The northern tribes of Israel, sometimes referred to as “the ten lost tribes”, dispersed across a wide geographical area after defeat at the hands of the Assyrians. Peter wrote to Christians scattered across wide areas of Asia Minor. Many had settled there after fleeing persecution in Jerusalem in the early days of the church. (Acts 8:4).
Exiles, refugees, sojourners, pilgrim, dispersion: these words communicate insecurity, not security. Yet, these words are often used to describe God’s people. This world is not our home. We are in the world but not of the world. We are called to not conform to the world. Our lives run counter to culture. We follow a Lord who was despised and rejected, acquainted with grief and sorrow. So then, how can we be secure?
- Christians are God’s elect according to his foreknowledge.
- We are secure in “whose” we are; note the strong Trinitarian formula of Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ.
- We have been made into a sanctified dwelling of the Spirit, forgiven and made holy by the precious blood of Jesus.
- We are a people of purpose, created to obey Jesus Christ
- God’s grace and peace are multiplied to us.
To the world we are oddities at best and rejects to be maligned, slandered, and abused at worst. To God we are his own people; planned for, accepted, embraced, forgiven, and sanctified. We belong to him. Be secure as you live for him, even when in a hostile culture.
For enlightenment and discussion:
Find Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia on a Bible map.
Have you ever felt uncomfortable, nervous, or ashamed of your commitment to Jesus?
In times of difficulty, how has your commitment to Jesus made you feel comforted or secure?
What is your understanding of elect, exiles, God’s foreknowledge, sanctification?
In 1 Peter 1:1-2, which words most strongly communicate the feeling of security to you?