Things to Think on Before You Read The Letters of 1st and 2nd Peter

Persecution!  The word itself is menacing.  What do you think of when you hear people talk about persecution?  The word means to be hostilely pursued, and several synonyms are to harass, intimidate, or bully.  But where as a bully is usually more bark than bite, persecution all too often has a nasty bite.  People being thrown into jail, beaten, burned at the stake, crucified, and fed to lions in front of crowds are all ways that the early Christians were persecuted.

Of course persecution is not the same as random acts of violence, it is aimed at specific targets, and usually has a goal in mind.  Oddly enough that goal is very often repentance.  If the person under pressure will simply change their minds, take back what they have said they believe, and agree with their tormentor then all will be forgiven and the pain or discomfort will cease.  But what do you gain if you turn your back on truth?

The Apostle Peter knew about persecution, and the fear that accompanies it.  He knew all too well what you can gain by turning your back on the truth, and the pain that accompanies it.  And he understood the testing of faith through which God’s elect would be proven.  He experienced it all, so when the church far from Jerusalem found itself experiencing persecution it is small wonder why the Holy Spirit would choose this man to write to them.

Writing with the authority of the Holy Spirit, and the humility of Simon son of John, Peter comforts, encourages, and warns the children of God to endure hardship in this life by focussing on the joy set before them in eternity.  And to give strict attention not to their feelings, or experiences, but to the word of God, that told them of their holy and merciful Savior and Lord Who was able to make them strong, firm, and steadfast.  And Who gave them the promise that “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you, ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also.”

Oddly enough Peter doesn’t see the pain of the lions in the arena to be as bad as the pain inflicted on a soul by our adversary the devil.  By denying Jesus you may avoid the lion in the arena, but your adversary the devil is every bit as vicious, and his rending claws and echoing roar are a worse torment.

Of course the only thing worse than persecution is a false teacher.  Because while persecution may lead to death, false teachers always lead to hell!  And with death surrounding you on every side you do not want to be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.  But rather you should seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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