By Sam E. Stone
Two letters from the apostle Peter have been preserved for us in the New Testament. Around AD 64 he wrote to Christians living in the region we know as modern Turkey. The churches of Asia Minor were going through great suffering and persecution at this time. Peter wrote to encourage them to live faithfully for the Lord and to view life from an eternal perspective. William Barclay declared, “Of all these General Epistles it is probably true to say that First Peter is the best known and loved, and the most read . . . It is written out of the love of a pastor’s heart to help people (for whom) . . . worse things were still to come.”
1 Peter 1:3-5
The only way to become a member of God’s family is through a new birth. This was described by Jesus himself as he taught Nicodemus (John 3:3-8). While a Jew was “born” into that family, each Christian is reborn into a new family relationship with God when Jesus is both one’s Lord and Savior. With this new relationship comes new hope for the future! This rebirth occurs through the grace and power of the Lord working through the “word of truth” (see James 1:18). Paul reminded the Ephesians that they had been “without hope” in the world prior to Jesus’ coming (Ephesians 2:12). Christ’s resurrection is what makes the difference.
This new inheritance can never lose value, never change or decay (Matthew 6:20). God is keeping our inheritance at his side awaiting our arrival in Heaven where we will claim it. This helps explain why Christians seek those things that are above (Colossians 3:1-3). Though God permits his children to go through difficult times of testing, he assures them of a priceless eternal reward (2 Corinthians 4:17).
1 Peter 1:6-9
While the believer anticipates his eternal reward in Heaven, it does not free him from suffering grief in all kinds of trials during his time here on earth. Those first readers of Peter’s letter knew all too well how the church was being persecuted by the pagans. They should not be surprised at this (1 Peter 4:12-16). God does not cause all of this suffering, but he does use it (Romans 8:28).
When Christians suffer, it tests the genuineness of their faith. Gold is precious and it is tested. Of how much greater worth is their faith! Just as gold is refined and purified by extreme heat, so one’s faith is proved genuine through the hot fire of persecution.
Alan Stibbs notes that glory will be brought to Christ when “in the face of the darkness and pain of earthly circumstance and opposition, his people have trusted him as God’s Christ, and proved his power to guard them and to fill them with joyful hope” (see 2 Corinthians 4:17). Our suffering is real, and it is not easy. Still God’s children can be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, knowing the end result of your faith is the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:10-12
Even the Old Testament prophets had a special interest in this topic. They searched intently and with the greatest care trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ . . . was pointing. This rare glimpse into the heart of a prophet reveals that these men did not understand all that God had revealed to them when he inspired their message. Those who spoke of the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow wanted to know more about these predictions (see Isaiah 53:1-12 and Zechariah 13:7). They learned that their message was for a future period, not something taking place in their lifetime. The readers of Peter’s letter could see these prophecies had been fulfilled in the Messiah.
1 Peter 1:13-16
All of this requires the right response from Christians—holiness. Their minds are to be alert and fully sober. Barclay observes, “They must neither become intoxicated with intoxicating liquor or with intoxicating thoughts; they must preserve a sound, solid, balanced judgment.” Believers must not conform to the evil desires that plagued them in the past (see Romans 12:1, 2). The apostle quotes Leviticus 11:44, 45, calling God’s people to live distinctive lives in this pagan world. Even today our faith is tested by our obedience. The words of Jesus still stand: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15, NIV 1984).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.