April 8, 2016
I Peter 1:6-9
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
This is the second installment from I Peter 1:3-9 – the last four verses:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you
have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith,
being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by
fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus
Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see
Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.
In the last blog we saw how we have “…a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (I Peter 1:3), the hope of heaven, and the fact that we “…are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (I Peter 1:4 and 5). But now we learn in our featured Scripture that the Christians to whom Peter is writing are “…grieved by various trials [and]…tested by fire…” (I Peter 1:6 and 7).
What trials of fire might these followers of Jesus Christ have been experiencing? First let’s identify these recipients of Peter’s epistle. Peter writes in I Peter 1:2, “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” These provinces named are in Asia Minor. Why were these disciples so widely dispersed? The pilgrims of the Dispersion were most likely Jews, although some scholars identify them as Gentiles because of such references in I Peter as 1:14 & 18; 2:9 & 10; and 4:3 & 4. But, indeed, they were Christians, and suspicion, rumors, and persecution against them were growing!
Peter was writing from Rome, where he ministered about 25 years before his martyrdom. In I Peter 5:13 (International Standard Version), the apostle closes his epistle with this: “Your sister church in Babylon, chosen along with you, sends you greetings….” But few think he was in the Babylon of Mesopotamia. It is far more likely Peter was in Rome (see Revelation 14:8; 17:5, 6, 18). The traditional date of Peter’s martyrdom is AD 67. But I found a very convincing argument for an earlier date at https://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/PETEMART.HTM. In this article, written by epigraphologist and archeologist Margherita Guarducci, she sets the date of Peter’s death in AD 64, on October 13. Tradition has it Peter was crucified in Rome, upside down, because he did not feel worthy to die in the same position as his Lord! This early date is less than three months after the great fire that destroyed up to 70 percent of the city of Rome!
Many people thought the current and unpopular emperor, Nero, had himself started the fire – to prepare space to build a more glorious Rome. Nero, in turn, blamed the Christians, who were already under growing suspicion for spreading anti-empire ideas. Christians did indeed serve another King – Jesus Christ! Some pagans even thought the believers practiced cannibalism, since they regularly partook “…of the body and blood of the Lord.” (I Corinthians 11:27 – see also John 6:51-56).
I Peter is thought to have been written just before this early date, in AD 63 or 64. “…the fiery trial which is to try you…,” (I Peter 4:12) may very well be the unrest that was building against Christians, and that culminated in horrific persecution after the fire and in the last part of AD 64. This continued off and on for the next two and a half centuries! Some have dated the first half of the epistle at just before the fire, and the last half just after (based on comparing I Peter 1:6 and 7 – the approaching trial – with I Peter 4:12 – the trial now upon them).
But how is it that these persecuted believers could “…rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…” (I Peter 1:8)? Peter points out several reasons – the first three explained in Wednesday’s blog:
• I Peter 1:3 – We are “…begotten…again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….” Jesus suffered even unto death! But the resurrection was His victory – and it is also ours!
• I Peter 1:4 – “…to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you….” Something so much better is coming than what this old world can offer! As Paul wrote in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
• I Peter 1:5 – We “…are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” And God’s ‘keeping power’ is mighty! (See John 10:27-31).
The second four are found in today’s featured Scripture:
• I Peter 1:7 – “…the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory….” Faith grows by trials and testings! (See Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). And the goal of that growth is that we are to be becoming more and more like Jesus Christ! (See Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18).
• I Peter 1:7 – “…at the revelation of Jesus Christ….” Jesus is coming again, and He will then reward those who have been faithful to Him! (See Matthew 16:27; 25:34-40; I Corinthians 3:11-14; II Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Revelation 22:12).
• I Peter 1:8 – “…Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.” Why do we love Him? Because “…He first loved us.” (I John 4:19 – see also Romans 5:8; I John 3:16).
• I Peter 5:8 – “…believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory….” Only God could give us such joy and glory as we go through trials! (See Deuteronomy 33:25; II Corinthians 12:9, 10). I believe this is part of what Jesus promised when He said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
• I Peter 5:9 – “…receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.” This is the goal we must keep in mind! (See Hebrews 12:1-3). And, as Paul said in I Corinthians 2:9 (quoting Isaiah 64:4): “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
All this is the secret to inexpressible joy, even in the midst of severe trials!