One of my favorite letters in the New Testament is the apostle Peter’s first. He was a fisherman who surprised and disappointed Jesus, and even deserted Him when He was arrested and later crucified. Yet due to the resurrection of His Master and the reality of the open and empty tomb, Peter became a Holy Spirit empowered witness of Jesus.
He wrote 1 Peter into a context when a great fire broke out in Rome in A.D. 64, and Roman emperor Nero blamed the Christians. Up to that first century moment, followers of Jesus had barely been a tolerated sect of Judaism, which was legal under Roman law. Now Christians would be judged as separate from Judaism and declared enemies of the Empire. Torrents of persecution erupted against the people of the Way and Peter wrote to give them hope in the midst of great suffering and oppression. His hope was the letter would be circulated throughout the Roman provinces that now make up modern day Turkey.
Read 1 Peter 1:1-12.
Now I am going to use the same text as it appears in The Message, a translation created by Eugene Peterson. I have taken out the verse numbers and section headings to help you “see and hear it” as cleanly as possible. Read and reflect on the first twelve verses of 1st Peter.
I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation. The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!
Grow devotionally. If you feel like a “stranger in the world,” or hear the Spirit’s call for forgiveness and holiness, or need God’s shielding power, these twelve verses can help you. Learn from our friends in first century Rome how to cultivate hope in Jesus in tough times.
Love is a verb,
©2016 by Mike Olejarz