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!
1 Peter -
1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.