Peter, Persecution and Perseverance

1 Peter 1-5; Peter the beloved Apostle who consistently put his foot in his mouth and spoke the wrong thing at the wrong time. He is married, so he has a family, we know of his occupation as a fishermen businessman, he has a mother-in-law who was healed by Jesus and He was among the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, always included with James and John the sons of Zebedee. There is a the famous statement in Matthew 16 that Peter declares the “Thou Art the Christ” which wins him an A for the day, yet within a chapter, Jesus has to rebuke him for trying to prevent the cross from happening.  Peter is the Apostle to the Jews, whereas Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. This came to a sticking point in Galatians, where Paul had to confront Peter because of his hypocritical behavior of entertaining the Gentiles in fellowship, but when the Jewish brethren came from Jerusalem, he removed away from them. [Gal 2:11-14]. Peter is the one Apostle that I can readily identify with. I have a lot of his traits, specifically one – inconsistency! Yet we know that Jesus entrusted the Gospel and care of the brethren to Peter. We know that the Roman Catholic church describes Peter as the first Pope, and that there is a mystical line of succession supposedly from him. The Phrase of “upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it;” [Matt 16:18] is the basis for the Peter Pope thought. However, it is the statement of Peter, not Peter himself, for the new name that Peter is given is that of [a small pebble], not a rock and the foundation of which the Church is built.

Enough on Peter, in our reading Peter is quick to address his Jewish audience and the persecution they are experiencing. There was a growing persecution in Jerusalem along with a famine that would relate to Peter’s message to the Jewish Christians. In fact Paul takes up a collection from the Gentile churches in support of the churches/brethren in Jerusalem [1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor 8 & 9]

Peter use many Old Testament cross-references to identify the scarlet thread of the Gospel as it moves through the Old Testament to the New. He speaks of character and righteous living before the world, and specifically before the Gentiles. While the Gospel has moved off-center from the Jews to the Gentile nations, the Jewish believers still have a bold witness that they must maintain and share. Peter mentions no less than three different times of how the Jewish believers are to act and conduct themselves in the world; I think the point Peter is trying to get all of us to understand in light of persecution against the Gospel [which we are seeing clearly today] is that we cannot be seen as offensive in cultural issues that we cannot be a witness for the Kingdom. Repeatedly Peter tells us that it is better to suffer for doing good that it is to suffer for doing evil. This is a difficult balance, while we still live in the world and are subjected to all the ills of a fallen society, we cannot lower ourselves in combative behavior, where we bring dishonor to our Lord Jesus.

Peter speaks of everyone [slaves, wives, and men] to be submissive to every human institution. This had to be hard for the brash behavior-ed Peter, that or Peter has mellowed a lot in his older years. In America we do not really understand the subjection to all authorities, for our government is based upon federalism not monarchy rule. Plus the added problem of “imperial worship” of the Caesar’s. We see a different Peter, one that is concerned for the well-doing of the Gospel; gone are the days of looking “to be the greatest.”  Peter three times mentions his prayer life. [1 Petr 3:8, 12 and 4:7] He has learned it seems to take things to God in Prayer, rather than volatile behavior.

Peter closes his first epistle with challenges for all to keep the faith in the hard times; and hard times are to be expected. The believer will be out of step with the rest of the world, but let the world revile us but be put to shame for their treatment of us. We are not alone in persecution, it is experienced by all that will desire to live godly. Just as Jesus was persecuted, even we should expect, almost welcome it.  Be humble; Be alert; Be sober in spirit, resist the devil in the power of the name – Jesus. “After you have suffered for a little while, you will be established by Him who has called you.” Don’t quit!

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