1 Peter 1

Commonly, beginning is exciting! Commonly, anticipation is exciting! Finishing, being so involved that you cannot turn loose, passing the point of "no return," is commonly exhausting and demanding.

For an illustration, let me use building a house. Joyce and I have never built a house [that is not shared with a deep sense of regret; neither of us have ever wanted to build a house]. The closest we came to building a house was adding a master bedroom and bath to our home years ago. I had a friend who had an excellent reputation as a carpenter. I had him "black in" our addition--put up the outside shell with the roof. We accepted the responsibility of doing all the inside finishing that we could.

When we planned the addition, he said to me, "Are you sure you want to do this? In my experience, people have a choice. They can hire someone to do all the building and remain married, or they can do part of the building themselves and get a divorce."

We did not get a divorce, but by the time we moved into the room if cured me of any desire to build a house. The beginning, the anticipating was very exciting! The finishing was very stressful!

When the resurrected Jesus first was presented to Israelites as Lord and Christ in Acts 2, what happened initially was very exciting! Jewish people were being converted so fast that earliest Christians could imagine all Israel being converted!

But some Jews really resented this message about the resurrected Jesus being the Christ. The leaders of Israel did not like it, and soon moved through death and persecution to stop it. When the message began to spread among people who were not Jews, the religious leaders among these people did not like it. They used persecution and death to try to stop it. Then the leaders of the Roman empire, sometimes locally and sometimes nationally, did not like this new religion. At times they used sanctions, persecution, or death to try to stop it.

A movement that began with so much hope and promise in time became a real hardship. Around 30 AD the first Christians had favor with everyone. By 50 A.D. very unlikely forces were cooperating to create real hardships. By 70 A.D. Paul had been executed, some of the twelve had been killed, and physical suffering for faith in Jesus was not uncommon. By the end of the first century some Christians seriously wondered if the Christian movement could survive.

Let me try to make this real to us. Suppose that 50% of the working people in this congregation lost their jobs because they believed Jesus was the Christ--and they could not get other jobs. Suppose the most of the retired people lost their retirements because they believed Jesus was the Christ. Suppose our building was declared off limits to us and we could not assemble here. Suppose there was no money to pay Brad, Chris, Derrick, or me. Suppose there was not enough money to have a mission's Sunday. Suppose we really struggled just to try to take care of each other.

Would you be discouraged?

If your answer is, "Yes!" you can understand the discouragement of many Christians in the last half of the first century.

This evening I want to consider Peter's encouragement to discouraged Christians in 1 Peter 1. Please turn there with me and let me point out a few things for all of us to consider.

  1. Consider 1 Peter 1:
    1. The introduction: verses 1,2.
      1. Peter identifies himself as the writer of this letter.
      2. He is an apostle--a messenger of Jesus Christ who is representing Jesus Christ.
      3. Galatians 2:8 declares he is Jesus' apostle to the Jewish people.
    2. Peter is specific about the Christians who were the first to receive this letter.
      1. They are people who reside as aliens--they do not belong, they are not considered to be a part of local society--they live in these places, but they do not belong.
        1. Can you identify with that?
        2. Is that not what is increasingly happening in our society?
      2. They are the scattered--they reside as aliens in places which were not their original homes.
        1. It is very difficult to live somewhere that you do not belong.
        2. The difficulty increases if you are living there by necessity, not desire.
        3. Every day reminds you that you are not a part of these people and will never belong.
        4. The reason you will never belong is seen in your commitment to God through Jesus Christ.
      3. Even though they are aliens and the scattered, they are also the chosen.
        1. They are the chosen because God chose them.
        2. To the local people they may be aliens and the scattered, but to God they are the chosen.
        3. They are not the chosen because of their wonderful accomplishments.
        4. They are the chosen because of God's incredible accomplishments--they are the chosen by the foreknowledge of God, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.
        5. Their obedience allowed God to work in their lives.
    3. What they have: verses 3-12.
      1. Peter began with concepts that should be powerfully encouraging.
        1. Because of God's great mercy they were born to a living hope by the resurrection of Christ--their hope was alive because it was placed in a living person, not a dead person.
        2. God's specific reason for raising Jesus was to provide those who trusted that resurrection an inheritance. Consider Peter's description of their God-given inheritance:
          1. It is imperishable--the forces at work in this world (like rust and thieves) cannot destroy this inheritance.
          2. It is undefiled--nothing can diminish its desirability or value.
          3. It is unfading--it was not of great value when it came into existence, but has its value fade as time passes.
          4. It is reserved--it belong to them, exclusively for them, and is saved for them.
          5. In regard to this inheritance, they must understand they are protected by God's power--no matter what people do to them in this world, the inheritance is theirs.
      2. The physical trials they endure only illustrate the genuineness of their faith and the value of their faith.
      3. They prefer salvation over good treatment or belonging.
        1. This is the salvation the Jewish prophets discussed.
        2. They knew this expression of God's grace would be the most valuable expression of grace God had given.
        3. Though they longed to be alive when this grace was expressed, it was revealed to them that this expression of grace could not come into existence in their lifetimes.
    4. Because God has given you the wonderful gifts of inheritance does not mean you can act irresponsibly: verses 13-21.
      1. You will prepare yourself for serious thought and firmly place your hope in God's grace.
      2. As obedient children, you will not live and act as you did prior to being Christians.
      3. Now your are called to God's holiness, and you take that call very seriously.
      4. You were kidnapped by evil.
      5. God did not pay your ransom with money; He purchased you with the blood of His only son, His sacrifice for your sins.
      6. You place all your hope in the God who raised Jesus from the dead and glorified the resurrected Jesus.
    5. This is how you give expression to your new relationship with God: verses 22-25.
      1. Your obedience comes from souls that have been purified.
      2. They were purified to love other Christians genuinely, without pretense, with love that comes from the heart.
      3. The way your obey God and the way you love other Christians shows you are a completely new person, born again, through God's living word.
      4. This was the word that was proclaimed to you.

  2. You and I live in a difficult, ungodly society.
    1. In far too many instances the priorities of this society are not those of God.
      1. Not in focus of life.
      2. Not in lifestyles.
      3. Not in values and standards.
      4. Not in concepts of integrity and honesty.
    2. In far too many instances we do not feel like aliens.
      1. We are more likely to try "to belong" than to recognize that faith in God generates differences.
      2. We are far too likely to substitute church membership for godly living.
      3. We are far too likely to be selfish in our relationships.
      4. We are far too likely to live for things ungodly than the things of God.
    3. The truth is, for all of us, that just living life get more and more challenging, more and more difficult.
      1. It is hard to be godly in an ungodly society.
      2. It is hard to be spiritual when so many others are just religious.
      3. It is hard to be unselfish in our relationships.
    4. We desperately need to understand some basic facts.
      1. We need a better understanding of what God did for us in Christ.
      2. We need to trust God's grace instead of our achievements.
      3. We need to understand what godly living is.
      4. We need to understand that it is worth the effort to belong to God.

It is easy go begin in a state of excited anticipation. It is hard to "hang in there" when it is tough to live as a godly person in this world. But it is always worth it.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 23 November 2003

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell