1 Peter Intro ~ 20080831 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
8/22 1 Peter Intro (1:1; 5:12-13)
This morning we are going to start the precious letter of 1 Peter. This letter is almost 2000 years old, so in order to help us understand what is written, we need to fit it into it's historical time frame. We're going to spend some time this morning looking at who wrote it, who it was written to, when, and what the circumstances were that prompted the writing. We will look briefly at the main themes of the letter. That will set the stage for us to reap the greatest benefit from this short letter. Ultimately we come for selfish reasons. We study a book of the bible because we want to be changed by it. We want to know God better as he reveals himself in his word. We want to hear the voice of the shepherd calling to us from it's pages 'follow me'. So turn in your bibles with me to 1 Peter and we will get started.
The opening verse reads like this:
We'll start with the recipients and move to backwards to the author and the setting. The letter is addressed to the 'elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia.' We know where those places are; in the northern part of Asia Minor, in modern day Turkey.
Pontus was the rugged region south of the Black Sea extending east from Bithinia into the highlands of Armenia. After Pompey conquered the kingdom of Mithradates in 65 B.C., the area was divided. The western part was united with Bithynia under Roman administration.
Galatia was ruled by the Celtic Galatians until the area was made a Roman province in 25 B.C., and parts of Phrygia, Lyconia, and Pisidia were added to it, so that the new Roman province of Galatia extended much farther south than old ethnic Galatia. It was in this new southern part that Paul planted churches and it was to them that he wrote the letter of Galatians. Peter was writing primarily to the northern section.
Cappadocia was a mountainous inland area in eastern Asia Minor. It was incorporated by Tiberius in A.D. 17 as a Roman province.
What is referred to here as 'Asia' was the Roman province occupying the western regions of Asia Minor. It was constituted a Roman province in 133 B.C., and was the most developed and prosperous region of Asia Minor. 'Asia' included the important cities of Ephesus and Colossae that Paul wrote to and in which he had established churches, and the seven cities addressed in the book of Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Bithynia lay along the southern shore of the Black Sea west of Pontus. In 74 B.C., the last king of Bithynia bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans. Bithynia included the important cities of Nicea, Nicomedia, and Chalcedon. Most of these regions were represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost where it says:
1 Peter was intended as a circular letter to be passed around broad geographical regions rather than being delivered to a particular church in a particular city. It was meant to address the common struggle of Christians scattered over an extensive area. A traveler could sail from Rome, around Greece and through the Bosphorus strait into the Black Sea, and land at Sinope or Amisus on the seacoast of Pontus, then travel southeast, crossing into Galatia and then Cappadocia, then turn west along an important trade route crossing another part of Galatia and into Asia, then north into Bithynia and departing from one of the sea ports of Nicomedia, Heraclea, or Amastris. At each stop of the courier, copies of the letter would be made for the churches in those areas and the original would be carried on to the next destination.
The designation of the recipients as 'elect exiles of the dispersion' sounds like he is addressing Jews dispersed from Jerusalem. That is how the term is used in John 7 and in James 1
The Jews were the chosen people of God, and there were no doubt Jewish people scattered among this predominantly Gentile region. But although he uses some very Jewish sounding terminology, he also says things in his letter that would be more applicable to a Gentile audience than a Jewish one:
And unlike John and James, the word dispersion (diaspora diaspora) in Peter does not have the definite article 'the'. So most likely, he is simply addressing Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in background, as the chosen people of God, and by following Jesus they have become aliens in their own home towns.
The letter claims to be written by 'Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ', and as such it was received as early as we have records. Even the letter of 2 Peter refers to an earlier letter from Peter.
It is possible that Clement used 1 Peter in his writings as early as A.D. 96. Polycarp clearly quotes from it around A.D. 112-144, but he doesn't cite the author. Tertullian in 200-206 A.D. cites verses from 1 Peter and identifies Peter as the author. Clement of Alexandrea (150-220) and Irenaeus (180) do the same. Some scholars have objected that Peter could not have written the letter because the Greek that 1 Peter is written with is too polished for an unschooled fisherman to write and they cite:
The word translated 'uneducated' (agrammatov )can mean 'illiterate' or it can simply mean untrained in the rabbinic traditions. It would be the equivalent of questioning how someone could be a pastor having not been to seminary. And the critics overlook the fact that this verse says the rulers and scribes were 'astonished' at their performance in spite of their lack of technical training.
Silvanus is said to be the bearer of the letter in chapter 5, and it is possible that he also served as amanuensis or scribe to Peter.
He was also known as Silas, and was a companion of Paul and Timothy on missionary journeys, and in the writing of the Thessalonian letters.
It is interesting to find that there are unique incidents and expressions that are used in 1 Peter that fit what we know of Peter from the gospels and from his preaching as recorded in the book of Acts. Peter took Jesus' teaching (Mt.21:42; Mk.12:10; Lk.20:17) pointing to himself as the 'cornerstone' of Psalm 118, and preached it to the scribes in Acts 4, and uses this to encourage the believers in 1 Peter 4
Peter, whose given name was Simon son of Jonah, was a fisherman from the village of Bethsaida in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, until Jesus called him and his brother Andrew:
Peter was apparently a married man, as we see from:
Peter was the impetuous disciple who spoke before he thought. He was a man of action, who began to walk to Jesus on the water, but after he got out of the boat became fearful and began to sink. Jesus gave Peter the nickname 'Rock' which is 'Petros' in the Greek or 'Cephas' in the Aramaic. He received the commendation of Jesus on his declaration:
Peter was one of the three disciples that Jesus brought up to see him transfigured on the mountain, and Peter was the one that spoke up 'because he did not know what to say'.
Peter was the one that said:
And when Jesus asked Peter, James and John to accompany him in the garden of Gethsemane to pray, Peter fell asleep.
And when the mob came to arrest Jesus, he pulled out his knife and cut off the ear of the servant of the hight priest:
Then, while he was waiting to see what would happen to his Lord, when the servant girl asked if he wasn't a follower of Jesus, he denied that he even knew him. Three times he denied that he had any connection with Jesus.
He was the one that ran to the empty tomb and ran right inside to see for himself that the body of Jesus was missing (John 20:6). Peter was the one that in despair said 'I am going fishing'
and then he jumped in the water and swam to shore when he recognized his risen Lord on the beach (John 21:7). Jesus restored the downcast Peter by asking him three times if he loved him, and three times he told him 'feed my lambs ...tend my sheep... feed my sheep'.
Peter was the one who stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached the message of the good news of Jesus Christ to the crowd, and three thousand were saved.
Peter was the one who, after realizing the freedom that he enjoyed in Christ, bowed to the pressure of the legalists and refused ot eat with the Gentiles. He undermined the good news of justification through faith in Jesus Christ by his hypocritical conduct and had to be rebuked publicly by Paul.
Peter was the one that Jesus told would indeed have the opportunity to suffer and die and glorify God by a martyr's death of standing up for the name of Jesus.
And tradition tells us that Peter died a martyr's death in Rome, probably in 64 A.D. under emperor Nero. Foxe's book of Martyrs says this:
The letters of 1 and 2 Peter were written from Rome shortly before Peter's martyrdom.
'Babylon' was a metaphor for the center of world power and sin, which his readers would understand as Rome. Foxe describes the situation in Rome under emperor Nero:
Peter, an imprisoned Christian, awaiting his own martyrdom, was writing to persecuted Christians throughout Asia Minor, encouraging them to suffer well. The verb 'to suffer' (pascw pascho) appears 12 times in 1 Peter and only 11 times in all the rest of the New Testament letters. Peter points to the suffering of Jesus as what brought salvation to sinners. And Peter points to Jesus' suffering as an example for the believers.
Peter is a God-saturated letter. Peter uses the word 'God' 39 times in this short letter, about once every 43 words. The only other New Testament writings to compare with this are 1 John (once in 34) and Romans (once in 46). Peter is a deeply theological letter, rooting the conduct and character of his readers in great truths about God.
We find Peter's stated purpose for the letter in 5:12:
Peter wants to establish his suffering Christian readers in their faith. He pleads with them to maintain their stand in the true grace of God that they have experienced. Sink your roots down deep into the doctrine of the grace of God and don't be shaken by whatever the world throws at you. Stand firm! Stand firm in grace!