1 Peter: Faith In The Fire

Peter is someone we can all relate to in the Bible. He says what he thinks. He is impulsive. He takes matters into his own hands. He blows it really bad with Jesus. In the gospel, he is a big coward.

Yet on the other hand, in Acts, you see a new Peter. He repents. He is restored with Jesus. God redeemed his shame. He grows in faith and grace. The three years he spent with Jesus were not wasted. Jesus made him the leader of the disciples. He has a bold faith and is unashamed of Jesus. He went on to write two books of the Bible (1 and 2 Peter). He was a pastor who loved people (aka: sheep). And like Jesus, He was crucified for being a Christian.

In Peter, we see a normal Jesus-follower. Someone who really loves Jesus. Someone who really sins. Someone with whom God is patient as he grows and matures through his sin to love Jesus more and sin less. His imperfections are endearing and his progress is encouraging.

Peter’s first letter is packed with timeless wisdom for every Christian generation. It is gold for the soul from a seasoned pastor on how to live amidst life’s trials in light of the person and work of Jesus, who also suffered trials.

Peter writes to groups of Christians who lived in modern-day Turkey. They were Christians who were suffering greatly for their faith in Jesus. Their faith was under fire. In the heat of the trials, Peter reminds them that they belong to God. Remembering that we belong to a loving and sovereign God allows us to find peace and purpose in every circumstance or seasons of trial, giving us strength to press onward toward faith and obedience to Jesus.

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How to Respond to Civil Authorities

How do you talk about political leaders with your friends? On breaks do you bash your boss with other employees? Do you pick apart your pastor after the church service? Your answers may reveal that you have issues authority.

When it comes down to it, God created authority. It is part of his design. He himself is the ultimate authority and in charge of everyone and everything. All authority comes from God, established by God, and used by God for his purposes (vs. 13-15a; cf. Romans 13:1-7). God puts people in authority over us to help us to learn and grow. The way we respond to authority can have a good affect on those ruling over us (v.15b).

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” – 1 Peter 2:13-17, ESV

While we may not agree with our president, police, pastor, or parents, we have a obligation to submit to their authority and live as servants. Servants differ from slaves in that they are free and do what they do out of humility. When we buck against earthly authority we really also buck against God’s authority. We have a higher calling to live as servants of God under his authority (vs.16-18). When we humble ourselves to God we will also honor other authorities trusting God is working through them even if they are disrespectful, unlikable, abusive, unfair or ungodly.

Our obedience to earthly authority ought to reflect our obedience to Jesus. We do not seek to get away with as much as we can with Jesus—we seek to do all that He wants and commands—even when those commands run against the grain of our comfort or abilities. An important characteristic of a follower of Jesus is submission to authority. First, to God, then to others.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How is God the ultimate authority? How does this help us to think about other authorities, even evil ones?
  • What human authorities has God put in authority over you? What is your attitude towards them?
  • What is the place for government and civil authority in the story of God? What expectations do you have for governing authorities? How are God’s people to live with our civil authorities?
  • Why is it important to guard the way we talk to or about authorities? What does this teach to people around us when we can graciously disagree and humbly submit? How does submission silence ignorance and foolishness? What is the result of doing good and submitting to authorities? When is it okay to disobey authorities?
  • How does our response to authority reflect on our faith? (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Proverbs 21:1) How does Peter’s challenge to submit to authorities challenge you?
  • How is God the ultimate authority? How does this text show that God is over rulers, authorities, even emperors?
  • Why is the example of a servant a fitting example of submission? How is Jesus a great example of a servant? (see Mark 10:42-45; Phil. 2:5-11) How are servants free? What are Christians free from or free to? How are you expected to use your freedom? How does God want you to serve?

Grow Together

Have you ever met a hypocritical Christian? I have. Truth be known, I am one.

Let’s admit it. Us Christians are a community of hypocrites. We aren’t perfect. Far from it. We have an lofty standard God wants us to meet—holiness. That’s a really high bar. We sincerely want to meet that standard, but we fall short like a pole-vaulter trying to jump over Golden Gate Bridge. We sometimes act like we can make it on our own, but we often mask the truth that we struggle to be holy from our fellow Christians.

Why do we hide when we all struggle? Wouldn’t it be better if we admitted our mutual struggle and banded together to grow together? Of course! And Peter agrees too. He calls us to brotherly love from a pure heart and in the processes your display the good news to others around you (1:22-23).

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” – 1 Peter 1:22-23, ESV

The way we fight hypocrisy is through abiding in the Word of God. The Word of God is our mighty weapon against slaying hypocrisy.

The Word of God is powerful because it is the Word is Truth.

Hypocrisy is the opposite of truth. Hypocrisy lives a lie and masks the truth. When we read the Word it reads us. We see who we really are and what we need to become. While not easy to swallow it is the truth.

Jesus was the Word in the flesh—the living Truth—to set us free from sin and hypocrisy. If you look at the first Jesus followers they were a mess. Peter was the biggest mess of them all, yet Jesus loves to redeem messes. A hypocrite must first admit, “I am a mess. I am not what I am, but I want to be as He is. Help me to love truth. I love You and I want to love others too.”

The Word is living and enduring.

There is no other book like the Bible on earth. It is the very words of God. It’s alive. The Spirit of God still gives life through it. While man and generation come and go (1:24-25; cf. Isaiah 40:6-8), the Word of God stands the test of time impacting generation after generation. If the Word has the power to change so many lives he has power to change my life too, even hypocrisy.

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25

The Word is good and our source of growth.

The Word of God is like milk to a baby (2:2-3). A new Christian craves the Word. He can’t get enough. It is life-giving. No Christian is too old or mature to feast on the Word or drink its spiritual milk. It is the Word that gives him motivation and power to fight the hypocrisy he struggles to overcome (2:1). Remind one another of the tasty goodness therein and obey it.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3

Christianity isn’t a solo or personal walk. It is a arduous journey we take together with other Christians. There are many personal aspects to the journey like our salvation and daily choices, but it’s in those parts that walk with one another our faith is accentuated and amplified. We grow as Christians by growing together. We fight hypocrisy by walking in Truth together.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is hypocrisy? How is hypocrisy a temptation? What are some ways that Christians struggle with hypocrisy?
  • What are the implications of a life filled with 1 Peter 2:1?
  • How does a vulnerable and open faith within the church help us overcome hypocrisy?
  • What issues of hypocrisy do we need to deal with as a community?
  • How are you banding together with your brothers and sisters as you fight hypocrisy in your own life?
  • What is the purpose of loving one another? (see John 17) Why is love so important to Christianity? Where does true love come from? (1 John 4:8)
  • How does abiding in the Word of God help us to love one another? (see Psalm 34)
  • How can we encourage one another to renew a longing for “spiritual milk”?
  • How does Isaiah 40:6-8 speak to the issue of our brevity and the Words eternality? Why is this an important truth to dwell on as we encourage one another?
  • How does the way we treat other Christians (or non-Christians) reflect on our faith in Christ? How is the gospel preached in relationships?
  • How has your faith in Jesus changed the way you relate to people? Are there any attitudes you need to repent of?
  • What opportunities do you have to love one another in your community?
  • What does it mean that God is good? What ways in the Bible do you see that God is good? What are some ways God has been good to you or your family?

under trials

Jesus was everything to Peter. Peter longed to follow Jesus and for three years he did. He walked with Jesus saw his miracles, heard his preaching, and was there when Jesus rose from the grave. Peter wasn’t always a cooperative follower. In his early years he was brash and impulsive. His lip got him into messes, but Jesus was tender and tough with Peter. He forgave Peter, appointed him to service, empowered him, and helped him endure a trial-ridden life. No wonder Peter endured so much for Jesus.

Peter made it his mission to love Jesus and shepherd the flock. You get a glimpse of Peter’s heart when reading his letters. Peter was a pen pal pastor and counselor to many Christians who faced trials for following Jesus throughout modern-day Turkey (v.1). As Peter begins his letter do not skip over the salutation. Packed within are three hopeful promises for Christians under trials.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” – 1 Peter 1:1-2

First, even under trials God has chosen you, saved you, forgiven you, adopted you, loves you, and you are his from before time (v.2a). What precious gifts to remember in a time of persecution or hardship. God is with you and for you. He won’t fail to be good to you.

Second, the Holy Spirit is sanctifying you under trials (v.2b). No body likes trials. In fact, we try hard to avoid them. Yet trials are unavoidable. They follow us. Not that we are to embrace trials, but we must see how God uses them to draw us to him. Trials are part of God’s sovereign plan. God doesn’t just want to save us; he wants to change us. Trials tend change us to make us more like Jesus. This is God’s holy work of sanctification.

Third, remaining obedient to Jesus is vital when under trials. Jesus is acquainted with our trials. He has been there. He knows the full weight of being under trials. He was under trials to the death, but it was by his blood and sacrifice that our sins are forgiven. Jesus blood was the signature of his covenant between God and man. As Jesus remained obedient to God under trials the result was global blessing, so must we remain obedient to Jesus under trials for the result will be great blessings.

Peter writes to early Christians, but he also writes to you so that you would see trials under the lens of God’s grace. Grace is God acting and working on your behalf for your good. Peters points to the possibility of grace and peace in the midst of trials. Don’t panic. God is with you, for you and at work within you under trials.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Who was Peter? What do you know about Peter’s life?
  • What do you know about the people to whom Peter is writing? How are we like them?
  • How does Peter start his letter? Why is this important?
  • How did Peter know Jesus?
  • What is election? How does election show God’s love? How is election like adoption?
    Why are the “elect” called “exiles”? (aka: stranger or alien) What is the purpose of our election?
  • How are we citizens of a different kingdom? Where have you become to “at home” in this world?
  • How do you see the Trinity in verse 2? How do you see the Trinity working together in this verse? What do you learn about God from these verses?
  • What is the significance of “sprinkled with his blood”? (see Exodus 24:1-8)

Encouragements for Christians When their Faith is Under Fire

God never promised that this life will be easy, but he promises to be with you in the fire.

The consequences of saying that you love and worship Jesus can be real and hurtful. Those who are close to you may even turn their back on you.  For many around the world there is pain and suffering.  There is ridicule and rejection.

Peter knew what it was like to experience persecution, hardships, and suffering for Jesus Christ. This gave him a raw, yet real palate for encouraging other Christians who are walking through the same fire.

1 Peter is an excellent book to read to be encouraged.  Here are a sampling of encouragements for Christians when their faith is under fire:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1:6-7)

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (2:2-3)

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (2:7a-8)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (2:9)

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (2:13-15)

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (2:20-21)

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (3:13-18)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (4:8)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (4:12-16)

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (4:19)

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (5:5-7)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (5:10)