Summary: I live as an exile in this world because God elected me, not because God rejected me
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The opening words of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities described what it was like to live as a French peasant in the years leading up to the French Revolution. But those timeless words are also a pretty good description of what it’s like to live as a disciple of Jesus in the year 2016. As His disciples our life really is a tale of two cities, or perhaps more accurately, a tale of two different worlds.
One of those worlds is characterized by foolishness, incredulity, darkness, despair, and evil and leads to hell. The other is filled with wisdom, belief, light, hope and good and it leads to heaven. But the fact that we must, as least for a time, live in both worlds simultaneously leads to all kinds of problems that have no easy answers. But what we’re going to find over the next few months as we study 1 Peter is that finding a lasting solution to those problems begins with answering two questions:
1. Which world is my true home?
2. How did I become a citizen of that world?
We’ll answer both those crucial questions this morning.
But first, let’s take just a few moments to consider the context of Peter’s letter that we’ll be studying from now until Easter. I’ll be pretty brief here because we have so much to cover this morning.
Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter chapter 1 and follow along as I read the first two verses:
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 ESV)
Today, when we write a letter, it is customary to identify the author in the closing at the end of the letter. Except, of course, in the case of those irritating text messages where the person sending the text is not in your contact list and he or she fails to identify himself or herself. But in Peter’s day, it was customary for the author to identify himself in the opening greeting and Peter follows that custom here. So we immediately know that the author is Peter.
Because of his authority as an apostle, there were many first century writers who attributed the authorship of their works to Peter in order to give them credibility. However, there is relatively little debate that Peter actually wrote this letter. What little doubt there is generally arises due to the classical style of Greek employed in the letter which some claim would not come from an “unlearned” fisherman. But that alone is really no reason to doubt that Peter actually wrote this letter and there is far more evidence to support his authorship.
Peter identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ”. As we’ve discussed before the word “apostle” is used in the New Testament in two different ways. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent”, so it often describes the responsibility of every disciple of Jesus to be His ambassador here on earth and share the gospel with others. So certainly Peter was an apostle in that sense.
But the word “apostle” was also used to describe an authoritative office in the New Testament church. Only the 11 who had been with Jesus, plus Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas, and Paul, held that position. It is likely that Peter is using the term in that sense here in order to give added weight to what he writes.
This letter was probably written around 65 AD during a time of tremendous persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor, Nero, had set the city of Rome on fire, probably because the rebuilding of the city would satisfy his insatiable lust to build, and then blamed it on the Christians. They were already hated because of their association with the Jews and the fact that they were considered to be hostile to the Roman culture, so it’s not surprising that vicious persecution of Christians spread throughout the Roman Empire.