What a Privileged People We Are
1 PETER 1
By Stephen McIlroy
In 1 Peter 1 the Apostle writes to first century Christians who were scattered across Asia Minor because of persecution. Acknowledging the challenges they face, he encourages them to focus on the hope they have in Jesus and reminds them that they have now received the salvation that the Old Testament prophets so eagerly awaited.
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We read in 1 Peter 1:1-3,
‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…’
The letter, or epistle, before us is the first of two credited to the Apostle Peter. Remember him? He was the man who declared, courageously, that he would follow Jesus to His death but then chose to betray Jesus, denying that he ever knew Him. Yet, here we find him full of passionate faith in the very same Jesus. Surely an encouragement for us when we feel we have failed Jesus.
As well as the name Peter, he is also known as Simon Peter, Simon, Cephas, Petros, and Simeon, depending on which cultural language is being used. He is communicating to believers in Jesus Messiah who are currently residing in biblical Asia: Pontus, Cappadocia, etc. This is modern-day Turkey. Some of the recipients would have lived there for several years whilst others would have had to flee there due to persecution from the Romans, the Greeks and the Jews. They found themselves living as Christians in a hostile environment, under ungodly rulers.
The causes for their suffering and persecution, arose for a number of different reasons. Firstly, many in society maliciously gossiped about the believers. Rumours had circulated that these people worshipped a guilty criminal punished by the Romans with death. Some maliciously insinuated they were cannibals and actually ate their own god. While others maliciously painted pictures of incest, smearing the believers with accusations of kissing their own brothers and sisters.
Secondly, some in society were suspicious of the believers because they were different. They were hailed as a new secret sect who refused to worship the Roman gods and would not eat meat from the local markets.
Into this context, we find Peter writing. Jesus had told him to ‘feed my lambs’, and Peter, in this letter, is doing exactly what His master had commanded! He offers encouragement to look beyond trials and difficulties towards heaven and home. This is their hope, he tells them, which will never perish and remains safely in a place which will never be destroyed, kept by One whom no man could destroy.
1 Peter then goes on to say in chapter 1:10-12,
‘Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.’
Here, Peter encourages the believers to focus on what Jehovah God spoke to people through His Old Testament prophets. These prophets searched intently for a picture of the promised Messiah, who would one day come to save (or deliver) His people. However, each of them only saw a small part. They never had a full understanding of Him who was to come. They didn’t know His name, but only that He would endure suffering and enjoy glory.
These prophets spoke both into their time in history and also into the later times. They only had one piece of the jigsaw. But now, Jehovah God has revealed the complete picture. In Jesus, we have now seen His promise revealed. The prophets were actually serving us. What a privileged people we are, says Peter. He adds that even the angels peer over the rim of heaven longing to see the promise and the fulfilling of His coming to mankind. But angels can’t experience the grace, redemption, feelings, mercy or forgiveness that we can. What a privileged people we are.