Introduction to 1 and 2 Peter: Living with Hope in a Foreign Land

 

Intro 1 and 2 Peter (Pict 1)It is no longer just the wild-haired doomsayers who hear the drumbeat of persecution echoing from the horizon. Those who watch the present landscape through the binoculars of Scripture and history can see the forces gathering against righteousness.

Followers of Jesus will not be spared the sting of harassment. Jesus said such hatred should be expected (Matt. 5:10), and Paul said it was a certainty (2 Tim. 3:12). Suffering for Jesus’ sake should not be a surprise, but it does require preparation.

Peter provided that preparation in the form of two letters to believers who were spread across Northwest Asia. The full flames of their persecution were still a few years away, but the time of preparation was upon them. Their faith must be reinforced or it will buckle under the weight of the coming oppression. Do we not find ourselves in similar days? If so, then the message of 1 and 2 Peter is most relevant to our times.

The battle for faith is waged on two fronts. 1 Peter surveys persecutions from outside the church that threaten to steal their faith. 2 Peter inspects errors from within the church that threaten to compromise their faith. Peter’s satellite photos show the reality of these two enemies, and the wisdom of God provides a clear strategy for winning the spiritual battle.

Intro 1 and 2 Peter (Pict 2)1 Peter – Be Ready To Suffer

In 1 Peter the author grabs the church by the shoulders and has them face the reality of coming persecution. Their “various trials” would soon become “fiery trials” (1 Pet. 1:6, 4:12; “suffer” is found 17 times). Peter does not promise them a last minute cease fire or show them a neutral country where they can escape the struggle. Instead, like a battle tested commander he calls upon them to embrace the suffering. Such suffering puts them in the camp of Christ (1:11; 2:21; 3:18; 4:1, 13, 16; 5:1), it strengthens them to win the battle for faith (1:6; 3:14; 4:1; 5:10), and becomes an effective tool of spreading the gospel (2:11-12, 13-15; 3:1-2, 13-17, 4:4-6). A willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake is an essential tool for spiritual survival.

“Ready To Suffer” is a motto the church should happily embrace today, for when Christians make comfort their goal and view suffering as unfair they will quickly crumble under any spiritual pressure. Yet, we follow a Savior who had rocks for a pillow, thorns for a crown, and a cross for a throne, why should we expect anything different from a sin filled world?

Such suffering cannot be accepted lightly! It is a heavy weight that requires training to lift. In his first letter Peter offers us four spiritual exercises that will help us bear the weight of suffering for Christ.

Look To Your Reward. Amazingly, “glory” is the beautiful counter-balance theme to “suffering” in 1 Peter (“glory” is found 10 times). As day follows night, glory is the certain result of righteous suffering. This truth is seen in “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that followed” (1:11, 21). This same glory is awaiting those who endure the sufferings of Christ (1:3-9; 5:10, the “bookends” of the letter), and the certainty of “the unfading crown of glory” keeps them working (5:4).

Consider Your Example. Pain often drives a person to sin or selfishness. Yet, at the heart of his letter Peter proposes another approach: Pain is the platform upon which the gospel is most clearly seen (2:4-3:17). Suffering is an evangelistic tool! Therefore, in the pain the believer is to be an example of holiness and good works to their world (2:11-12, a pivotal passage). They are to win the lost through submission and instruction not retaliation or force (2:13,18; 3:1,7,15-16).

Cling To Your Spiritual Family. Suffers will die if left alone. The battle for faith must be waged together. Suffering is eased when we “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” and show that love through kindness, hospitality, service and encouragement (1:22, 2:1-3, 3:8; 4:8-11).

Rejoice In Your Salvation. The joy of the sufferer is not confined to what will be done, but it is rooted in what was done. Our salvation was predicted (1:10-12), and it was accomplished by Jesus’ suffering on the cross (1:18-21). As a result, we are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession” (2:9). We may be objects of derision by the world, but we are precious to our faithful Creator and loving Shepherd who will make sure we get home (2:24-25; 4:19).

Suffering for Christ doesn’t seem so impossible when these spiritual exercises are practiced regularly. But, they must be practiced before the pain comes!

 

Intro 1 and 2 Peter (Pict 3)2 Peter – Be Certain Of The Truth

The walls of a house can be built to withstand the force of a hurricane, but if the foundation is not solid it will soon fall apart from within. The words of Jesus and His apostles are the only foundation for saving faith (Matt. 7:24-28; Eph. 2:19-22). When that message is corrupted a collapse is inevitable. So, having dealt with the outward threat of persecution in 1 Peter, the apostle now turns his attention to the internal threat of corruption in 2 Peter.

To immunize us against false teaching Peter reminds us of the confidence we have in the words of Scripture (2 Peter 1:12-15; 3:1-2, the letter’s purpose statements). They are the very words of God, and their promises are certain (1:16-21; 1:4; 3:4,9,13).

Therefore “knowing” God’s truth in its purity was essential to saving faith (“know” is found 16 times). This knowledge provided certainty to their faith. If you’re not sure what you believe you’ll quickly abandon it when under pressure, or gladly accept whatever new teaching comes around. Peter identifies three things that provide certainty to our faith.

Be Certain About Where The Truth Is Found. The gospel is not the invention of theologically minded men. It is a message that originated with God and was given to men who were moved by the Holy Spirit (1:16-21). It is indeed “the knowledge of God” and “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2,8; 2:20; 3:18). No other knowledge can compare!

Be Certain About The Danger Of Corrupting God’s Truth. We are constantly tempted to put our crayon on the picture of God’s perfect revelation. We color it to conform to our own lust and fit into our cultural norms. Peter wants us to know that God doesn’t take such graffiti lightly! (Note the emphasis on judgment in 2 Peter 2). Those who twist the Scriptures to fit their worldly desires do so to their own destruction (3:15-17).

Be Certain That God Will Keep His Word. It is easy to say the unrighteous will be judged, but will they? False religion flourishes. Immorality reigns. Can God really do what He says? Peter casts our eyes back to the historical evidence of the flood and then forward to the prophetic evidence of Jesus’ return, and ties them together with the same unbreakable thread of God’s word. God has, and will do, what He says.

The trustworthiness of God’s truth creates within the reader a strong desire to live a godly life because God has opened for him/her an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus (1:5-10; 3:11-13, the “bookends” of the letter)

Yes, the drumbeat of persecution echoes from the horizon. Its coming is certain. Preparedness is our need. 1 and 2 Peter is the boot camp where victorious believers are made ready. Join us.

Tim Jennings
timj.theway@hotmail.com

“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)

 

 The Schedule For The Fall Focus

Focus On 1 & 2 Peter

October 2…………………………………… Introduction

October 7…………………………………… 1 Peter 1:1-12

October 9…………………………………… 1 Peter 1:13 – 2:3

October 14………………………………… 1 Peter 2:4-12

October 16………………………………… 1 Peter 2:13 – 3:7

October 21………………………………… 1 Peter 3:8-22

October 23………………………………… 1 Peter 4:1-11

October 28………………………………… 1 Peter 4:12-19

October 30………………………………… 1 Peter 5:1-14

November 4………………………………. 2 Peter 1:1-11

November 6………………………………. 2 Peter 1:12-21

November 11…………………………….. 2 Peter 2:1-22

November 13…………………………….. 2 Peter 3:1-18

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