As we begin our series called Stand Firm from 1 & 2 Peter let’s get a little background. We’ll start with an infamous date in the history of Christianity, July 19, 64 A.D. That was the day that “Rome burned while Nero fiddled.” The great city of Rome was consumed by a terrible of fire. Rome was a city of narrow streets. It was a city of dense population. On both sides of those narrow streets were high wooden dwellings where the people lived. And once the fire hit Rome, it consumed the city. It could leap easily across the narrow streets and consume the wooden buildings like kindling.
The first three days and nights the fire spread rapidly. Before it was done it had consumed most of the homes of most of the people. The Roman people believed that their emperor, Nero, who was considered a maniac, had himself set their city on fire. They believed that he did it because he loved to build and wanted to build more. In order to build he had to destroy what already existed so that he could build it again.
He found a front row seat in the Tower of Maecenas, and watched the raging inferno consume the city of Rome. Historians tell us that he enjoyed watching the flames. People who tried to put out the flames were eventually hindered and where the fire was stopped a new fire was purposely started. The people were totally devastated. Their culture, in a sense, went down with their city. Temples of worship were burned down, all the religious elements of their life were destroyed; their very household gods were even burned up. There was not just an economic loss and a social loss but religious loss and confusion to realize that their gods had been unable to stop this tragedy.
Their resentment was bitter, deep and deadly. Nero realized that he had to redirect the hostility. He needed a scapegoat to blame for this and so he chose a group that were known as “Christians.” And he spread the word as fast as he could that they were the ones who set the fires.
Christians were already misunderstood. They were already slandered. First of all because they were associated with Jews and there was a lot anti-Semitism in Rome. Secondly, Christians were monotheistic, meaning they would not worship the emperor or many Roman gods. Next there was misunderstanding of the
Lord’s Supper, people heard things like “eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus.” They assumed that some kind of cannibalism was going on! And then there was the Christian kiss of love, the embrace that Christians commonly gave to each other when greeting. They were seen as strange for these reasons.
And then they were most unpopular because many wives of prominent Romans embraced Christ. And for a woman or her children to act independently of her husband in the Roman culture was considered rebellious. Christianity was seen as a movement which split families, brought great conflict, even insubordination from wives and children.
As a result of these accusations, under Nero the persecution against Christians began. There were some incidents of abuse of Christians but now it was a wholesale persecution under Nero. Tacitus, the Roman historian, reported that Nero rolled Christians in pitch and then set them on fire while they were still alive and used them as living torches to light his garden parties. He served them up also in the skin of wild animals, set his hunting dogs on them to tear them to pieces. They were also nailed to crosses. Within a very few months actually Christians were imprisoned, racked, seared, broiled, burned, scourged, stoned and hanged.
That persecution which was generated in Rome began to spread throughout the Roman Empire. And as it spread it touched places like Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. And as it spread into those places, it began to affect the Christians who were there whom Peter calls “aliens, strangers.” And it began to affect their lives.
We cannot know precisely when, but sometime after this began Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this epistle. It is an epistle written to believers who are foreigners in a hostile culture. It is written in a time when Christians were forced to suffer severe persecution and even the loss of their lives. The campaign of slander and the campaign of suffering for the love of Christ was on.
Notice chapter 1 verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice even though now for a little while if necessary you have been distressed by various trials.” Look at chapter 2 verse 21, “For you have been called for this purpose since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps who committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth and while being reviled He did not revile in return, while suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” And he is saying now you’re suffering, Christ suffered and set the example about how to suffer. Going back to verse 20, “When you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, and this finds favor with God,” and your example is Christ.
Chapter 3 verse 13, “And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed and do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Chapter 4 verse 12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing.” Verse 13: “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” Verse 19, “Therefore let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” And then in chapter 5 verse 10 he says, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
Now it’s obvious from those passages that these people were in a time of suffering. And that time of persecution would eventually catch Peter himself and Peter would be killed, tradition says, also his wife at the same time, for their faith and proclamation of the gospel of Christ.
The emphasis of 1 & 2 Peter is to teach believers how to live victoriously and stand firm in the middle of hostility without losing heart, without wavering in faith, without becoming bitter, realizing where your hope is, realizing who your Savior is, and always looking forward to the glorious coming of Christ when all suffering will end . In chapter 1 verse 7 he talks about the glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. In verse 9 the ultimate outcome, even the salvation of your souls, that final salvation, when we see the Lord. Verse 13 talks about the revelation of Jesus Christ, meaning the Second Coming. Chapter 2 verse 12 talks about the day of visitation; that’s the Second Coming of Christ. Chapter 4 verse 13 talks about the revelation of His glory, again referring to the Second Coming. Chapter 5, verse 1, the glory that is to be revealed. Chapter 5 verse 4, when the Chief Shepherd appears you’ll receive the unfading crown of glory.
We see believers facing suffering and that those who suffer are to keep their heart and mind set on the return of Jesus Christ. No matter what comes in this life we have that promise.
There are some other subjects that we’re going to learn about in 1 & 2 Peter. We’re going to learn about our security as believers, that we have hope in the resurrection of Christ. How do we love and grow in our relationship with Jesus when we don’t see Him? We’ll learn about honorable behavior. We’ll earn about what is to be our responsibility to the government in which we live. We’ll discuss marriage relationships between husband and wife, children and parents, employees and employers. We’ll learn about humility. We’ll learn about how God wants all your anxiety and all your care cast on Him. We’ll learn about the perfecting work God is doing in your life through struggles.
It’s going to be great; I hope and pray that you will be encouraged.
Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church