Sermon for GTCOTR
Pastor Kenneth Bent
1 Peter was written to the Christians who were living in the very large area consisting of 5 Roman Provinces, basically located in what is now Turkey. Christians had migrated to the region to evangelize and plant churches. Persecution was beginning to increase. People from Pontus and Galatia were present on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out, and it isn't unreasonable to think that a number of them were born again and carried the Gospel back home with them, resulting in new churches springing up all over Asia Minor. 1 Peter was probably written to be carried and read and copied among the churches.
If 1 Peter was written during the time of Nero, as many think it was, it is easy to see how the increasing tension and outright persecution was beginning to "ramp up". Dr. Larry Hurtado commented in a lecture I attended, (the A. O. Collins lectures, Houston Baptist University, 11 April, 2013), that the early church was so successful that when Nero looked around for someone to blame for the burning of Rome, Nero knew who the Christians were–the ones who worshipped Jesus as God. Only thirty or so years after Christ, they weren’t some small group that were part of a Jewish sect–the Christians were widely known in Rome and throughout the empire.
“Those who originally received this letter were Christians who were in danger of losing their way. Their newfound faith had severed the ties which had bound them to their non– Christian relatives and neighbours and was itself being tested because they were facing suffering. This situation was probably not what they had expected when they had first heard the gospel, and it is an experience faced by every generation since then.
Peter met their needs by reassuring them of the gospel. Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together to bring us a new life (1:3-5; 2:2; 4:1-6) in which the past is forgiven (2:24; 3:18), the present is protected (1:5) and motivated (4:2), and the future assured (1:4, 7). This is a way of life to be lived out in practical terms (1:13-16) and in everyday relationships (2:16; 3:1, 7). It equips the followers of Jesus for living in the real world of the here and now (4:1-4) and for that world of eternal glory for which Jesus is even now preparing us (5:10).
So Peter’s response to the question of suffering is that it is a part of the journey of faith. It tests the seriousness of our discipleship (1:7), joins us to our fellow–Christians (5:9), and will be vindicated on the day of judgment (4:16-19). Though believers are ‘strangers’ and 'scattered’ in this world (1;1), they are part of the pilgrim people of God (2:5, 9), journeying to the Father’s home (1:4). They look forward to the day when Jesus will return for his own (1:7; 2:12; 5:4). These are truths which can motivate today’s Christians to live for God’s glory, just as they encouraged Peter’s original readers.”
New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Edited by Carson, D. A, R. T France, J. A. Motyer, and Gordon J.
Wenham. Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994.
Persecution in some parts of the empire was more severe at various times than others.
"…a letter from the younger Pliny, writing to the emperor Trajan about AD 110 from Bithynia, an Asian province to which 1 Peter was directed (Epistles 10.96). Pliny asks for advice from the emperor about procedures to be followed in dealing with Christians:
I have never been present at an examination of Christians. Consequently, I do not know the nature or extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, nor the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed. Nor am I at all sure . . . whether a pardon ought to be granted to anyone retracting his beliefs, or if he has once professed Christianity, he shall gain nothing by renouncing it; and whether it is the mere name of Christian which is punishable, even if innocent of crime, or rather the crimes associated with the name.
Uncertain as to the grounds for punishment, Pliny describes for the emperor the procedure he has been following:
For the moment this is the line I have taken with all persons brought before me on the charge of being Christians. I have asked them in person if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them. If they persist, I order them to be led away for punishment; for, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished. There have been others similarly fanatical who are Roman citizens. I have entered them on the list of persons to be sent to Rome for trial (The Letters of the Younger Pliny [Baltimore: Penguin, 1963], 293–94)." (excerpted from: Word Biblical Commentary, 2006, Thomas Nelson, Accordance Electronic Edition, Oaktree Software.) Volume 49.
THERE IS A GROWING DISTANCE AND DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUE CHRISTIANS AND THE CULTURE OF AMERICA.
THE WORLD WANTS US TO, IN THE WORDS OF MIROSLAV VOLF,
"TOLERATE EVERYTHING EXCEPT INTOLERANCE TOWARD EVERYTHING."
(Soft Difference, Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter, Volf, Miroslav, http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~tim/study/Miroslav%20Volf%201%20Peter.pdf )
See also: Carson, D A. The Intolerance of Tolerance. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2012.
Peter gives us great wisdom on how to live as Christians in the midst of an increasingly hostile, anti-Christian culture:
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1Peter 2:15–16 ESV)
Today I want to break down the message of 1 Peter into 3 main areas:
HEAD - THINGS WE NEED TO KNOW AND KEEP IN MIND
HEART - ATTITUDES AND MOTIVATIONS WE MUST POSSESS AND DEMONSTRATE
HANDS - THINGS WE NEED TO PRACTICE
WHERE CAN WE LEARN THESE THINGS?
Of course, we learn them primarily from the Word of God. We also learn from one another, from other leaders, from classes, and from books, etc.
As believers we need to be:
· Engaged in our minds
- The world's system will fill our minds with useless distractions - to be so occupied with self that we do not think about anything important. In a word, narcissistic -in love with your own or someone else's image.
In the words of Tim Keller:
"In short, the world tells you to get peace by not thinking too hard; Christianity tells you that you get peace by thinking very hard, and learning, grasping, rejoicing in, and resting in the truths and doctrines of the Word of God. ."
Note that Keller states Christians get their peace FROM thinking out the implications of their lives.
Philippians tells us whatever is true, honest, honorable, just, pure, commendable….THINK on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Matthew 22:37 says we are to love God with all our MINDS.
In 2 Timothy 2:7, Paul tells Timothy to "think over what I say (meditate on these things), and the Lord will give you understanding."
We need to think on God's Word, think about our Christian lives, and renew our minds.
We need to renew our minds because the Scriptures tell us our unsaved mind is:
- darkened - Eph 4.18
- hardened - 2 Cor. 3:14
- depraved - 1 Tim. 6:5
- futile, foolish - Romans 1:21
We need to think on the truth of God's word - if the seed of the Word falls our heart, but we don't receive revelation and understanding by the Spirit, the evil one snatches it away. Mathew 13:19
Good soil in our saved heart, however, hears and understands the Word, and it bears fruit.
Here are a few things that 1 Peter says we should know and think about and understand:
1) God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and these three are one:
“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:” (1Peter 1:2 ESV)
The scripture indicates that there are discernibly different works among the Persons of the Trinity - such as foreknowledge, sanctification / setting apart, obedience to Christ, and the sacrifice of Jesus - His blood.
2) The Blood of Jesus paid for our sins, and redeemed us.
“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.” (1Peter 1:18–19 ESV)
3) The Importance of Being Born Again
“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,” (1Peter 1:3 ESV)
“since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” (1Peter 1:22–23 ESV)
4) The Death and Resurrection of Jesus brought salvation and hope.
“ he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1Peter 1:3 ESV)
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1Peter 2:24 ESV)
5) There is a tension and a difference between the world's system and true Christian life.
Christianity is not "comfortable" to live anymore in many parts of the world, and it looks as if it will be increasingly so in America for Christians.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1Peter 3:14–17 ESV)
6) The Reality of Eternity, and the Promise of Eternal Life
“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.” (1Peter 1:3–5 ESV)
“obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1Peter 1:9 ESV)
“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.” (1Peter 1:13 ESV)
HEART (Orthopathy) - Things we should feel, our inner motivations
1) Hope - “Born again to a living hope” (1Peter 1:3 ESV)
- “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you” (1Peter 1:13 ESV)
2) Joy - “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” (1Peter 1:8 ESV)
- “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1Peter 4:13 ESV)
3) Unity - “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1Peter 3:8–9 ESV)
4) Mutual Love - “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, Honor everyone.
- Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
- Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1Peter 1:22; 2:17; 3:8 ESV)
- “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1Peter 4:8 ESV)
5) Humility - “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1Peter 3:8; 5:5–6 ESV)
6) Perseverance - “firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” (1Peter 5:9, 12 ESV)
7) Be Sober, Watchful and Resist the devil - “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith,” (1Peter 5:8–9 ESV)
Things we should practice and improve:
1) Conduct - “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1Peter 2:16 ESV)
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1Peter 2:12 ESV)
2) Evangelism - “but in your prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1Peter 3:15 ESV)
3) Abstain - “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1Peter 2:11 ESV)
4) Shepherd and Oversee - “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1Peter 5:1–4 ESV)
5) Show Hospitality and Minister to One Another - “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (1Peter 4:9–10 ESV)
6) Servants - “Servants, subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” (1Peter 2:18 ESV).
7) Wives - “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1Peter 3:1–2 ESV)
8) Husbands - “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1Peter 3:7 ESV)
9) Spiritual Worship and Prayer - “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 2:5 ESV)
“But you a a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1Peter 2:9 ESV)