1 Peter—Stand fast in grace!
Experiencing Grace in the Midst of Suffering
“I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you,
and testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it” (1 Peter 5:12, NET Bible).
It’s 64 AD. Paul’s death under the cruel persecution of the wicked Emperor Nero staggers Christianity. The infant church questions God’s goodness and power, especially on the frontiers of faith—the fledgling assemblies scattered throughout the five provinces of Asia Minor. Today that area is northern Turkey.
The news of Paul’s death and the raw threat of persecution and suffering forces the young church and its even younger shepherds and flocks to ask the questions every follower of Christ will ask:
If God is good, then how could He allow this to happen to us? I thought He loved us!
If Christ is building His church, then why is this so hard? I thought we were the world’s only hope!
Someone needed to step in with the answers to those faith-shattering questions.
Someone needed to bring God’s message to these stumbling fellowships.
Someone needed to teach these immature shepherds and their flocks how to access grace in the midst of suffering.
Someone did. The Apostle Peter writes from his own experience. Our study of Mark traced Peter’s personal struggle with the Lord’s hard message: Those who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to suffer and serve in His name.
The lessons Peter learned along the way are the lessons he teaches in this letter to the church. Lessons that take followers of Christ beyond the anticipation of suffering to the expectation of power and grace in the midst of suffering. Lessons to carry you through your darkest days. Lessons to show you how the light of God’s grace in Christ Jesus will penetrate your darkest days and fill you with a joy only those who continue to follow will ever know:
Grace is never more powerful than when life hurts the most!
First Peter is a field manual for warriors serving their King in a hostile land.
I. Peter encourages Christians to persevere during hard times by reminding us of who we are and exhorting us to live as if it’s true.
A. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter from Rome to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, living as aliens in a hostile land under a hostile king.
1. In the same way Peter referred to Mark symbolically as “my son,” he referred to the Roman church as “she who is in Babylon” (5:13). Peter chose the term “Babylon” to emphasize the evil of the Roman Empire without explicitly referring to it in ways that put the church at risk. This also emphasizes the “alien” dynamic recalling Israel’s exile to Babylon where they lived as aliens in a hostile land.
2. Peter is specifically writing to the geographical areas in Asia Minor where Paul’s ministry barely penetrated (Acts 16:6-7). These congregations were mixed, Jewish-Gentile. His heavy use of the Old Testament and referral to “elect strangers of the dispersion” (1:1) identifies the Jewish believers. His reference to them as a people who “once were no people, but now you are a people of God” (2:10), and the exhortation not to live any longer as “Gentiles” (4:4) identifies the Gentile believers.
3. It seems Peter used Sylvanus as the editor and courier of this letter (5:12). Sylvanus, a traveling companion of Paul would have been familiar to the Gentile readers and more acquainted with Paul’s writings. Peter, of course, was known as a pillar of the church.
B. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage these congregations in the faith in the face of growing persecution and to affirm the teachings of Paul.
1. Paul’s death left them vulnerable to those who opposed Paul’s radical message of grace.
2. Paul’s death left them discouraged and doubting God’s goodness and power in the face of suffering.
C. Outline: Peter reminds us of who we are in Christ and then tells us to live our lives as if it’s true—even during hard times.
1. Introduction: This is a letter to God’s elect, living as scattered aliens in a hostile land under a hostile king (1:1-2).
2. Bless God whose mercy has recreated us in Christ (1:3-2:10).
a. We have a precious salvation which gives us hope and joy was predicted by the prophets and desired by the angels (1:3-12).
b. Our precious salvation compels us to a holy life as our Father’s obedient children who love Him and His children (1:13-25).
c. We have become a chosen priesthood who crave His word and offer genuine worship because we are God’s new spiritual house built upon the precious stone the builders rejected and His new nation to the praise of His glory (2:1-10).
3. Live for God by honoring Him in your relationship with this world and one another (2:11-5:11).
a. Live for God in the world by abstaining from sin and living good lives before non-Christians, respecting everyone (including authorities) selflessly (2:11-3:12), suffering well by remembering God is good, following Christ’s example, hoping in heaven (3:13-4:6), and by clinging to one another to face the hard times together (4:7-11).
b. Live for God in the church by remembering that the time to serve one another is short (4:7-11), knowing that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ (4:12-19), and persevering in spite of suffering (5:1-11).
D. Conclusion: This is a letter encouraging you to stand firm in God’s grace from your friends in the church at Rome.
II. 1 PETER AND YOU The question isn’t, “Will I suffer for Christ?” The question is, “Will I know how to access His grace when I suffer for Christ?”
A. The Cornerstone of our faith is a Person—Jesus Christ. Intimacy with Him will make every difference during hard times.
B. He is the Cornerstone of a community of faith—the church. Intimacy with His people will make every difference during hard times.
C. It’s one thing to say suffering for Christ is a privilege, it’s quite another to believe it. How can your community of faith help you believe that glorifying the Cornerstone of our faith is worth the pain?
D. Remember that Peter learned his lessons on suffering for Christ the hard way—through failure, guilt, and shame.