PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Peter Introduction

8/31/08 1 Peter Intro (1:1; 5:12-13)

This morning we are going to start the precious letter of 1 Peter. This letter is almost 2000 years old, so in order to help us understand what is written, we need to fit it into it’s historical time frame. We’re going to spend some time this morning looking at who wrote it, who it was written to, when, and what the circumstances were that prompted the writing. We will look briefly at the main themes of the letter. That will set the stage for us to reap the greatest benefit from this short letter. Ultimately we come for selfish reasons. We study a book of the bible because we want to be changed by it. We want to know God better as he reveals himself in his word. We want to hear the voice of the shepherd calling to us from it’s pages ‘follow me’. So turn in your bibles with me to 1 Peter and we will get started.

The opening verse reads like this:

1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

We’ll start with the recipients and move to backwards to the author and the setting. The letter is addressed to the ‘elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia.’ We know where those places are; in the northern part of Asia Minor, in modern day Turkey.

Pontus was the rugged region south of the Black Sea extending east from Bithinia into the highlands of Armenia. After Pompey conquered the kingdom of Mithradates in 65 B.C., the area was divided. The western part was united with Bithynia under Roman administration.

Galatia was ruled by the Celtic Galatians until the area was made a Roman province in 25 B.C., and parts of Phrygia, Lyconia, and Pisidia were added to it, so that the new Roman province of Galatia extended much farther south than old ethnic Galatia. It was in this new southern part that Paul planted churches and it was to them that he wrote the letter of Galatians. Peter was writing primarily to the northern section.

Cappadocia was a mountainous inland area in eastern Asia Minor. It was incorporated by Tiberius in A.D. 17 as a Roman province.

What is referred to here as ‘Asia’ was the Roman province occupying the western regions of Asia Minor. It was constituted a Roman province in 133 B.C., and was the most developed and prosperous region of Asia Minor. ‘Asia’ included the important cities of Ephesus and Colossae that Paul wrote to and in which he had established churches, and the seven cities addressed in the book of Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

Bithynia lay along the southern shore of the Black Sea west of Pontus. In 74 B.C., the last king of Bithynia bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans. Bithynia included the important cities of Nicea, Nicomedia, and Chalcedon. Most of these regions were represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost where it says:

Acts 2:9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,

1 Peter was intended as a circular letter to be passed around broad geographical regions rather than being delivered to a particular church in a particular city. It was meant to address the common struggle of Christians scattered over an extensive area. A traveler could sail from Rome, around Greece and through the Bosphorus strait into the Black Sea, and land at Sinope or Amisus on the seacoast of Pontus, then travel southeast, crossing into Galatia and then Cappadocia, then turn west along an important trade route crossing another part of Galatia and into Asia, then north into Bithynia and departing from one of the sea ports of Nicomedia, Heraclea, or Amastris. At each stop of the courier, copies of the letter would be made for the churches in those areas and the original would be carried on to the next destination.

The designation of the recipients as ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’ sounds like he is addressing Jews dispersed from Jerusalem. That is how the term is used in John 7 and in James 1

John 7:35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?

James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

The Jews were the chosen people of God, and there were no doubt Jewish people scattered among this predominantly Gentile region. But although he uses some very Jewish sounding terminology, he also says things in his letter that would be more applicable to a Gentile audience than a Jewish one:

1:14 …do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance…

1:18 …you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers…

2:10 …Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…

4:3-4 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you…

And unlike John and James, the word dispersion (diaspora diaspora) in Peter does not have the definite article ‘the’. So most likely, he is simply addressing Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in background, as the chosen people of God, and by following Jesus they have become aliens in their own home towns.

The letter claims to be written by ‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ’, and as such it was received as early as we have records. Even the letter of 2 Peter refers to an earlier letter from Peter.

2 Peter 3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,

It is possible that Clement used 1 Peter in his writings as early as A.D. 96. Polycarp clearly quotes from it around A.D. 112-144, but he doesn’t cite the author. Tertullian in 200-206 A.D. cites verses from 1 Peter and identifies Peter as the author. Clement of Alexandrea (150-220) and Irenaeus (180) do the same. Some scholars have objected that Peter could not have written the letter because the Greek that 1 Peter is written with is too polished for an unschooled fisherman to write and they cite:

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

The word translated ‘uneducated’ (agrammatov )can mean ‘illiterate’ or it can simply mean untrained in the rabbinic traditions. It would be the equivalent of questioning how someone could be a pastor having not been to seminary. And the critics overlook the fact that this verse says the rulers and scribes were ‘astonished’ at their performance in spite of their lack of technical training.

Silvanus is said to be the bearer of the letter in chapter 5, and it is possible that he also served as amanuensis or scribe to Peter.

5:12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He was also known as Silas, and was a companion of Paul and Timothy on missionary journeys, and in the writing of the Thessalonian letters.

It is interesting to find that there are unique incidents and expressions that are used in 1 Peter that fit what we know of Peter from the gospels and from his preaching as recorded in the book of Acts. Peter took Jesus’ teaching (Mt.21:42; Mk.12:10; Lk.20:17) pointing to himself as the ‘cornerstone’ of Psalm 118, and preached it to the scribes in Acts 4, and uses this to encourage the believers in 1 Peter 4

Psalms 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Acts 4:11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

1 Peter 4:7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

Twice in his sermons in Acts, Peter refers to the cross as a ‘tree’ (xulon -xulon), and in 1 Peter 2:24 he uses the same word.

Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.

Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Peter, whose given name was Simon son of Jonah, was a fisherman from the village of Bethsaida in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, until Jesus called him and his brother Andrew:

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Peter was apparently a married man, as we see from:

Matthew 8:14 And when Jesus entered Peter‘s house, he saw his mother–in–law lying sick with a fever.

1 Corinthians 9:5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Peter was the impetuous disciple who spoke before he thought. He was a man of action, who began to walk to Jesus on the water, but after he got out of the boat became fearful and began to sink. Jesus gave Peter the nickname ‘Rock’ which is ‘Petros’ in the Greek or ‘Cephas’ in the Aramaic. He received the commendation of Jesus on his declaration:

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

and then received Jesus’ censure when he told him that he didn’t have to die:

Matthew 16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter was one of the three disciples that Jesus brought up to see him transfigured on the mountain, and Peter was the one that spoke up ‘because he did not know what to say’.

Mark 9:5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Peter was the one that said:

Mark 14:29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”

Mark 14:31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

And when Jesus asked Peter, James and John to accompany him in the garden of Gethsemane to pray, Peter fell asleep.

Mark 14:37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?

And when the mob came to arrest Jesus, he pulled out his knife and cut off the ear of the servant of the hight priest:

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Then, while he was waiting to see what would happen to his Lord, when the servant girl asked if he wasn’t a follower of Jesus, he denied that he even knew him. Three times he denied that he had any connection with Jesus.

Mark 14:66-71And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

He was the one that ran to the empty tomb and ran right inside to see for himself that the body of Jesus was missing (John 20:6). Peter was the one that in despair said ‘I am going fishing’

John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

and then he jumped in the water and swam to shore when he recognized his risen Lord on the beach (John 21:7). Jesus restored the downcast Peter by asking him three times if he loved him, and three times he told him ‘feed my lambs …tend my sheep… feed my sheep’.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Peter was the one who stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached the message of the good news of Jesus Christ to the crowd, and three thousand were saved.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Peter was the one who, after realizing the freedom that he enjoyed in Christ, bowed to the pressure of the legalists and refused ot eat with the Gentiles. He undermined the good news of justification through faith in Jesus Christ by his hypocritical conduct and had to be rebuked publicly by Paul.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Peter was the one that Jesus told would indeed have the opportunity to suffer and die and glorify God by a martyr’s death of standing up for the name of Jesus.

John 21:18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

And tradition tells us that Peter died a martyr’s death in Rome, probably in 64 A.D. under emperor Nero. Foxe’s book of Martyrs says this:

…Having been nine months in prison, Peter was brought from thence for execution, when after being severely scourged, he was crucified with his head downwards; which position, however, was at his own request, in order that he might die in a more dishonourable manner than his holy Master had done before him. (Foxe, p.13)

The letters of 1 and 2 Peter were written from Rome shortly before Peter’s martyrdom.

1 Peter 5:13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.

‘Babylon’ was a metaphor for the center of world power and sin, which his readers would understand as Rome. Foxe describes the situation in Rome under emperor Nero:

The barbarities inflicted on the Christians, during this first persecution, were such as excited the sympathy of even the Romans themselves. Nero nicely refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for his victims. He had some sewed up in the skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs till thy expired; and others dressed in shirts stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his garden. This persecution was general throughout the roman empire… (Foxe, p.15)

Peter, an imprisoned Christian, awaiting his own martyrdom, was writing to persecuted Christians throughout Asia Minor, encouraging them to suffer well. The verb ‘to suffer’ (pascw pascho) appears 12 times in 1 Peter and only 11 times in all the rest of the New Testament letters. Peter points to the suffering of Jesus as what brought salvation to sinners. And Peter points to Jesus’ suffering as an example for the believers.

Peter is a God-saturated letter. Peter uses the word ‘God’ 39 times in this short letter, about once every 43 words. The only other New Testament writings to compare with this are 1 John (once in 34) and Romans (once in 46). Peter is a deeply theological letter, rooting the conduct and character of his readers in great truths about God.

We find Peter’s stated purpose for the letter in 5:12:

5:12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter wants to establish his suffering Christian readers in their faith. He pleads with them to maintain their stand in the true grace of God that they have experienced. Sink your roots down deep into the doctrine of the grace of God and don’t be shaken by whatever the world throws at you. Stand firm! Stand firm in grace!

August 31, 2008 - Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , ,

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