This profound letter is being written during a time of real severe persecution, by a man who had been so transformed by Jesus Christ - and he is saying -
1. You have been chosen.
2. You have been sanctified – or set apart - and you are different so that you can obey.
3. You have been sprinkled by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Yes - we are very different indeed – and Peter was certainly aware of that fact and factor as he wrote to disciples of Jesus Christ who were suffering.
There are certain days in our lives which we remember very clearly - and one of these days must surely be when we are born again.
Peter is referring to that here in verse 3 of Chapter 1. And Peter is encouraging these persecuted disciples of Jesus to praise God - to worship Him.
When we are persecuted - when people have a go at us - when people launch an attack because of our faith in Jesus - praise the living God. What God has given us has been noticed and observed.
It was in September 1666, that a baker's oven in Pudding Lane in London - set fire to the baker's shop - and the great Fire of London began. It raged from the 2September to 6th September - and spread to some 400 streets - and around 13,000 homes were destroyed - 200,000 people being left homeless. The famous St Paul's and 89 other church buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged.
Rumours arose. People were looking for someone to blame. And London began to blame the French Catholics.
When disaster strikes people try to find a scapegoat.
In A.D. 64 - on July 19 - another fire began – this time in Rome. Rome was built mainly of wooden houses - and the fire raged for two weeks. Nero watched from his balcony - he said the flames were as charming as flowers! Some said Nero started it - but he began to look for a scapegoat.
He noticed a group of people called Christians. (Tacitus writes about in the historical record book called “A New Eusebius”.) He falsely diverted the charge upon the Christians. They were accused of cannibalism - eating the body and blood of this man Jesus - cannibals had come to Rome - with love feasts and lust.
They preached that the world one day would be dissolved by fire, and so here they were practising what they preached.
Nero had some of these dear disciples of Jesus Christ crucified.
Nero put the skins of wild beasts upon them - and set his hunting dogs on them. At night he would hold a garden party, and to light the dark night, he rolled these crucified Christians in tar and pitch and set light to them!
These were dark dangerous days in the life of the early Church of Jesus Christ.
These two letters of Peter come out of this wave of persecution. This is the background to what was going on, as Peter wrote to these disciples of Jesus.
Peter probably died for his faith in Jesus at this time.
Now, Peter wanted to prepare Christians for suffering. He not only led people to the Lord Jesus Christ - but he followed it through - and he wrote to his own converts.
There is coming an increasing confrontation - we will suffer socially - and in various other ways. And we will need to be strong.
To be strong we will need to have strong relationships - with Jesus Christ. We see this in Chapter 1 - and we will need to have strong bonds and relationships with the Church and we read of that in Chapter 2.
The letter goes on to speak about our relationships - with the Emperor - with authorities - with employers - with each other.
And all this is so that our faith in the end of the day will come out like pure gold.
Peter is an apostle of Jesus Christ - there is no higher rank than that. His parents had called him Simon - which means a reed - easily blown around in the wind – someone who was vulnerable.
Jesus gave him a new name - Cephas - Petros - Peter - a Rock. Jesus was going to transform him from a reed into a rock - something to build on, and someone stable and solid and reliable.
Jesus can do that for you and me. Jesus can transform us - and does.
Peter writes - from Petros - here he is using his new Greek name. There was that occasion in Acts Chapter 10 when he would not even go into a Gentile house. What he is saying here is - I used to be an Israeli Jew - I would not even have eaten with you - but now I am no longer exclusive.
What is he doing in Rome? Well, Jesus sends us elsewhere. And Peter is a sent one - an apostle - a missionary - a Christian missile. The word can mean - "sent on a naval or military expedition to conquer territory".
Here is a fisherman - who is now conquering territory – and lives - for the King of Kings.
A miracle had taken place in this man's life. Peter had been thrust right out of the situation into which he had been born, and this miracle can take place in the lives of people today.
He is writing to ordinary people - and he gives these Gentiles - Jewish titles.
Jesus turns this man inside out. He speaks about people exiled in the dispersion - Jews who had been taken away and settled elsewhere. Today, Jews still refer to the diaspora - those dispersed. But he says - you Christians a real exiles - you are far from home. They were social misfits - aliens – strangers.
We don't fit in - we don't belong in this world - but we remain to witness and shine and testify and serve.
We are exiles - and the common factor is - that we are different - selected by God - sanctified by the Holy Spirit - sprinkled by Jesus.
This is what cuts us off.
Chosen by God - we share this with Israel. This introduces us to the big word - predestination. It is a lovely truth - God decided to have me - to choose me. What an honour and privilege to be chosen by God. This is reassuring and comforting.
And, the Holy Spirit is at work in our heart, to enable us to obey. God chooses us for obedience.
Note the order - the work of God begins through the Holy Spirit - and then we come to Jesus. Peter is saying - This is how it happened to me - the Holy Spirit has come and set me apart.
And we are sprinkled - or marked - by the Blood of Jesus - this makes us different. This is what makes us brothers and sisters. This is what causes our home to be in heaven and causes us to be exiles or strangers down here.
All this is in the title of the letter - in his opening words. He writes this to persecuted people. Even persecuted people can experience peace – even when misrepresented - ridiculed - mocked - laughed at - falsely blamed - it is possible to know the peace of God.
Peter is a Jew - and he now is so transformed and changed - that he has this real love for Gentiles - for those who are not Jews - and he will serve wherever God sends him.
Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. Let these blessings be multiplied. But note they come after the blood of Jesus has washed us. It must be this way round.
Grace first then peace. Imagine being able to say all that to a people who were suffering sorely for their faith in Jesus Christ.
This is indeed a letter full of riches. Let it enrich and bless your life and strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ – for what is coming.
“Almighty God, we pause to give thanks and praise for this profound letter written all this years ago. May it minister to us today as it ministered to believers in the first century – may grace and peace be ours in abundance – help us Lord Jesus – risen and living Christ. Amen”
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