Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. – Acts 2:22-24
This proposition was central to Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost, and it threads its way throughout this letter. Remember Peter’s story: he was the first to publicly acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. He blustered his way into embarrassment on the night Jesus was betrayed, and his understanding of Jesus’ forgiveness, and of the truth and power of the Holy Spirit, is evidenced in this sermon and the faith-filled actions that follow. The second half of Acts belongs to Paul; the first half, arguably, is Peter’s.
In the opening greeting Peter addresses churches in five adjoining provinces in Asia Minor. At the end of the letter, he acknowledges Silvanus as his co-writer, or possibly his secretary, and sends greetings from the church at Babylon – most likely referring to Rome – and from Mark. Of note is that, like James, Peter calls his audience “Elect exiles of the Dispersion,” again connecting Christians scattered throughout the Mediterranean with the dispersed tribes of Israel.
The occasion that stimulates the letter seems to be an outbreak of persecution among these churches, as you’ll notice over a dozen times that “suffering” is mentioned. Unlike in future moments, this was likely not yet a formal Roman policy, but rather a localized issue in Asia Minor. As we saw throughout Acts, however, there were many factions who sought to do Christians harm. This suffering “for the name” should not be considered unusual: “Don't be surprised…” he warns, “But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”
But this is not simply a motivational speech to put on a brave face while under trial. Peter’s concern is that their lives would reflect their status as “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession…”: “Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance… put away malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander… Be subject to every human institution… have unity of mind, sympathy, a tender heart, and a humble mind… Be self-controlled and sober-minded, for the sake of your prayers… Love one another earnestly… Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God….
Our verse for this week is Luke 2:52: And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.
The Epistle of 1 Peter. Now let’s read it!
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.