To know God's love and to show God's love
In our own day, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live as a Christian. It feels more and more that we're exiles in a world we once called our own. Our culture seems to misunderstand, malign, and mock us more and more. Peter wants to show us that this is not strange........those who desire to live godly lives in this world will be persecuted. Christian suffering is normal.
Read 1 Peter 1 v 1 - 12
How does the apostle Peter describe the Christians in modern-day Turkey to whom he is writing ( v 1 )?
Elect......God's chosen people related to God because of his divine choice.
Exiles...Peter is using Old Testament imagery, of Israel, who were exiled to Babylon. We are foreigners in this world: we don't belong ....we are just passing through.
What does this tell us about how Peter wants us to view :
. our relationship with God? We belong to God because he has chosen to love us. No hardship, difficulty, or our failings can change this.
. our life in this world? We will be exiles, treated as strange and different, and even hated. ( see 1 John 15 v 18 - 19 ).We are sojourners ( 1 Peter 2 v 11). We will never belong or feel at home here.
What have the three Persons of the Trinity done for each Christian ( v 2 )?
. God the Father chose people. "according to his foreknowledge" .....which means he had planned to save his people before the creation of the world. Just as in the same way he planned to send his son. ( v 20 ),.
. The Spirit sanctified us . " for obedience to Jesus Christ. " Sanctification " means " set apart" for or "dedicated to ". Here it means that the Spirit sets apart those the Father has chosen "for obedience " to the gospel.....to repent of their sin and trust in Christ.
. We are able to repent and trust because of Jesus' sacrifice. We are sprinkled with Jesus' blood. As we learned in our studies in Exodus, this refers back to the animals sacrificed in the people of Israel's place. It was a sign that as God's covenant people they were forgiven through a sacrificial offering ( Exodus 24 v 8 ).
What has " the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ " done for his people ( v 3 - 4 )?
. He has caused us to be "born again".....we are now children of God with a new life and identity.
. This means that we have " a living hope". " Hope " in the bible is not a vague wish, but a certain expectation of a future event. This hope is grounded in the "resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead ", which proves to us that we, like him, will enjoy life beyond death and that this hard life of trials and suffering is not all there is.......we will follow Christ through death and into life.
. Not only will we enjoy a future resurrection, but we will live in our future inheritance which is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading". It is eternal, pure and perfect.
How could we and Peter's first readers know we will reach this inheritance ( v 5 ) Why is this encouraging?
God who keeps our inheritance secure in heaven ( v 4 )
also keeps his children going in faith until they reach this inheritance ( v 5 ). God's power shields through this life.....not from suffering, but from unbelief. It is wonderful and reassuring to know that we will reach heaven, not because of our strength, but because of God's power.
To think about: How do these verses encourage us to live for what we will have in the future, rather than what we could have in our present?
We are not to expect, demand, or desire a comfortable, wealthy, trouble-free, or popular life now. We won't be surprised or despair when troubles come and we have less than those around us in worldly terms. Our future is unimaginably better than anything this world can offer. All this inspires us to endure even the most oppressive circumstances on earth.
Read 1 Peter 1 v 6 - 12
How is it possible....and right.....for Christians to rejoice in trials ( v 6 - 9 )?
In verse 6, Peter is continuing his thought from verses 3 - 5.....we rejoice because we know we are chosen by God, kept by his power and heading for our wonderful inheritance. Whatever happens, we know we are walking toward the day when Christ is revealed and we will see the outcome of our faith .......the salvation of our souls (v 9).
Our joy does not fluctuate according to our circumstances, because our joy is rooted in God and in his salvation.....we know whose we are and where we are heading. Our faith is proven and refined through suffering ( v 7 ). As gold is put through fire to remove its impurities, so are believers. The goldsmith puts the impure gold into the fire again and again until he can see his face in it.......so with us, we are refined until our maker is seen is us; the presence of Jesus in our lives. Note here that we are not to masochistically rejoice in suffering for itself......but to rejoice in and despite suffering.
How is this different from how the world links trials and joy?
The world thinks that trials and suffering will diminish or destroy our joy, telling us that we need to avoid it, or ignore it, and get through it as quickly as we can......so that we might be joyful again. However Christians are different: we can be joyful in a trial knowing that our joy rests on knowing God, and being saved by him. A trial cannot remove these things .....and in that trial, we can see that our faith is truly genuine as, trusting in Christ, it endures during the hard times, which brings us joy as well.
How are believers who live after Christ's death and resurrection in a privileged position compared to ...........
. the Old Testament prophets (v 10 - 12 )?
Although the prophets predicted and pointed toward the coming Messiah, they did not know how he would achieve our salvation through his suffering and glory. We, along with Peter's readers of that time, live after Messiah's death and resurrection and can know exactly when and how Jesus has come to save us....something that Elijah, Isaiah and the other prophets could only have longed for........
. the angels in heaven( v 12 ) ?
It is only humans that God saves. Angels live in the presence of God in the throne room of heaven. They have witnessed the unfolding of God's plan of salvation and rejoice when a sinner repents ( Luke 15 v 10 ), but they will never experience God's salvation, and in this sense, they "long to look " into these things.
Use verse 3 - 5 to spend time praising God.
Pray for yourselves and those you know facing "various trials", that those difficulties would show you ( and them) the genuineness of your faith.
Rejoice that you have a sure and certain future!
The follow-up meeting to discuss this study will now be at 11.00 on Thursday, June 24 (please note the change of time) in the church hall, when we will be enjoying chatting over coffee; do join us!
Next weeks' study will be on 1 Peter 1 v 13 - 2 v 3 and is entitled "Loving Christ by Loving Your Church".
STUDIES IN 1 PETER
Crushed, overwhelmed, devastated, torn......these waves of feelings wash over all those who suffer, blinding all vision of hope and threatening to destroy them. Suffering has many forms......physical abuse, debilitating disease, social ostracism and persecution. The pain and anguish tempt a person to turn back; to give in.
Many first-century followers of Christ were suffering and being abused and persecuted for believing in and obeying Jesus. Beginning in Jerusalem at the hands of their Jewish brothers, the pattern of persecution spread to the rest of the world.......wherever Christians gathered ......and climaxed when Rome determined to rid the empire of those who would not bow to Caesar......the "Christ ones".
Peter knew persecution first hand. Beaten and imprisoned, Peter had been threatened often. He had seen fellow Christians die and the church scattered. However he knew Christ, and nothing could shake his confidence in his risen Lord. In this personal context, Peter wrote to the church scattered and suffering for the faith, giving comfort and hope, and urging continued loyalty to Christ............
.........so this letter was written to Jewish Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and all Christians everywhere.
Date Written.......about A.D. 62 - 64 possibly from Rome. The writer is in "Babylon" according to 1 Peter 5 v 13. This is highly unlikely as by this time Babylon had become a ramshackle old town on the river Euphrates, instead, this is probably a code for Rome.
Setting.........Peter was probably in Rome when the great persecution under Emperor Nero began. Eventually Peter was executed during this persecution.
So here is a letter written to churches like ours, about times such as ours......where the post-Christian societies many of us live in, are now very much like the pre-Christian society in which Peter's first-century Christians lived, seeking to serve their risen Lord and Master. We often encounter the reality of increased hostility toward anything Christian as the culture of our time is likely to discriminate against us simply because we identify with Christ.
What we need to learn from this letter........
. to be enabled to face the reality of following Christ and obeying what he commands makes us different......we are aliens and strangers in a foreign land.
. to learn how to endure unjust suffering in a society where Christianity is unwelcome.
. to remember what the identity and purpose of our local churches are in communities that see them as irrelevant.
. to learn how to live with joy, hope and love when we are mocked, maligned and misunderstood because of what we believe and how we live.
. to be reminded of the "true grace of God " in which we can, and must, "stand firm"1 Peter 5 v 12.
These next six studies, followed by a conclusion, will excite, reassure and challenge you about your life now, as Peter shows you how to live well on the way home to your heavenly inheritance that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" 1 Peter 1 v 4.
Read Isaiah 52 v 13 - 53 v 12. This is the well known "suffering servant " passage.
How does this prophecy point forwards to "the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories"?
. His sufferings : 52 v 14 ; 53 v 1 - 9.
. His glories : 52 v 13, 1 ; 53 v 10 - 12.
As we begin our study in 1 Peter 1 next week, think about.......
What trials are you facing right now? What grief are you experiencing?
You do not have to ignore it or seek to belittle it; but neither must you despair in it or be crushed by it. If you have trusted in Christ, God is at work in your life, and he will not waste your suffering. Keep trusting in Christ and keep loving Jesus. Remember the living hope you have and the inheritance that you will enjoy. Look at how God has guarded you through your trials and know that God is refining your faith in those trials ........and rejoice!
In what way do you need to apply this encouragement? Is there someone who needs you to share it with them?
Praise God for this letter and for its relevance for us today.
Pray for God's help in the various trials that you are facing.
Praise God that he has promised to be with you and support you through those trials.
Pray that God will speak to you as we read and study this letter in the next few weeks.
There will be a follow-up discussion on this study on Thursday, June 17 at 10.00 in the church hall as usual....followed by coffee.
We begin our study in earnest reading 1 Peter v 1 - 12 with the title "Certain future, joyful present" which will be online on Saturday, June 19.
Many thanks as always to our churchwarden Mike Buitekant who is responsible for all the hard work on the church website where you will find all the bible studies, both current and archived.