God Sends Encouragement
Peter had been a failure, but Jesus made him into a pastoral leader. In this letter, Peter writes to Christians who needed encouragement, just as Jesus had encouraged him in the past (Matthew 16:18). Many believers had been scattered because of persecution; living as refugees away from home and family, adjusting to a different Christless culture in, what is now, Northern Turkey. Although they were scattered, they were not abandoned: although they might not feel ‘at home’ where they lived, they still belonged to God, part of His family and precious to Him.
Peter starts by explaining that they can trust what he says - because he is an accredited apostle of Jesus Christ. Jesus personally commissioned him to be one of the ‘founding apostles’ – to go in Christ’s Name to teach the truth about Jesus and help lead the church (Matthew 28:19-20). Previously, however, Peter often misunderstood Jesus, made some big mistakes (Matthew 16:21-23), and catastrophically denied that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). But, after the resurrection, Jesus reassured Peter of His loving forgiveness and recommissioned him to feed the church with truth (John 21:15-19).
Peter understood the pressure of isolation, failure and persecution; but also, the grace of Christ to forgive and restore him. So, he also wanted to reassure the scattered believers that that they were God’s chosen people who were very special to Him. That encouraging truth is one of the themes of this letter (1 Peter 1:1; 1:3; 2:4; 2:9). And as Christ’s representatives in their towns and workplaces, they were encouraged to know His calling to announce the gospel of grace and forgiveness (1 Peter 2:9-10), and to live in such a way that validated the gospel (1 Peter 2:11-12).
In our age, with so many ‘spiritual voices’ around us, we also will go astray, misinterpreting the Old Testament and misunderstanding the gospel of what Jesus said and did. We need apostolic teaching (Acts 2:42) to define godly belief and behaviour. While family tradition and church cultures may be helpful, every generation must check what they believe against the Apostles' teaching. A hunger to do this indicates spiritual health, like a baby who eagerly drinks its milk (2 Peter 2:2). That is especially true when working away from home, feeling alone or experiencing opposition because you love Jesus. You may feel distant, but like Peter's original letters, God has carefully arranged for His Word to reach you where you are – urging you to trust His love and stay close to Him, and teaching you how to live to please Him. Let this apostolic letter help you live confidently as His precious person, wherever you may be today. In that way you will be a light in a confused world where flickering lights promise what they can never fulfil, and darkness futilely threatens to extinguish eternal truth.
© Dr Paul Adams