The epistle of 1 Peter was written to Christians living in the northern part of Asia minor called Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These Christians were facing persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Peter writes to encourage them to stand strong amid the persecution that was coming. He wanted them to stay fully committed to Jesus no matter the cost.
To accomplish this, he encourages them to live in such a Christian way that even those who were opposed to and antagonistic to them would change their view of the church and hopefully of Jesus himself. He urges them to obey their leaders and follow their example of faith, to be the very best servants and workers possible, and to elevate their relationships (marriage, home, work, family, etc.) to such a shining example that it would demonstrate that faith in Jesus made them good for society and life in general.
1 Peter 1:1 tells us that the apostle Peter writes this letter and 1 Peter 5:12 tells us that he used Silvanus to help him write. In writing he wanted to declare the true grace of God. It seems clear that the true grace of God is seen in more than simply salvation from sins. It is seen in how we live and face struggles and hardships. Its overall message is very similar to Paul’s letter to Titus (2:11-15) where he says that God’s grace saves but it also challenges us to live godly lives amid struggle and pain. God’s grace doesn’t remove struggle. It helps us to live through it, no matter how bad it gets.
The persecution Peter is anticipating begins in earnest around 64 AD. when Nero sets up the church as scape goats and starts blaming the church for all the evils befalling Rome. He dipped Christians in oil and set them aflame to light his garden parties. He even burned a part of Rome itself and blamed the Christians for it. As such, the general population started lashing out and hating Christians because they thought they were the reason for their own hardships. Peter knew this hatred and persecution would eventually spread from Rome to the other parts of the empire and wanted to prepare, encourage, and strengthen the saints.
As we’ve already said, Peter’s theme is “God’s Grace”, and that idea is used repeatedly in 1 Peter. In fact, every chapter includes some reference to grace (1:2, 10, 13; 2:19-20; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5, 10, 12). He wants us to see that God’s grace is more abundant than we could imagine, even when we are facing the worst this world can throw at us. Eventually, Peter himself is arrested and beheaded by Nero which happened before 68 AD., which elevates his message even higher since he also faced death in hope of God’s grace.
By our conversion to and faith in Jesus, we become of a part of new life. A family of God called the church, the elect, a holy nation, and a royal priesthood wherein we live and support each other in pursuing God’s abundant grace. By his grace, his word, and the church, there is nothing we cannot accomplish and no hardship that we cannot face.
Let me encourage you to take a few minutes and read again this wonderfully encouraging little book. It is a powerful and relevant read especially in today’s hostile world.