1 Peter: Living Faithfully While Suffering
This week Christians all over the world will remember the last days and hours of Jesus’ earthly life. Some will act out the events of the passion on Good Friday. Others will gather at sunrise on Sunday to rejoice in the resurrection. Even non-believers and non-churchgoers will be reminded that it is Easter weekend through the programs on television, signs they see in front of churches, or relatives who invite them to church. Most people know that Easter is not about bunnies and egg hunts. On Friday night, we will gather to read the story and sing the hymns reminding us of Jesus’ suffering and death. And then on Sunday we will gather to rejoice in the resurrection. Both events are crucial to the Christian faith. Death and resurrection are the story of Jesus, and they become our story as well because we have been united with Christ. We surrender our life to be raised to new life. Even though we are in our earthly body we live a resurrected life now. Hallelujah!
1 Pet 5:6-14 I recently watched the film “Silence” about two Portuguese priests who traveled to Japan during a time when the Catholic faith was forbidden. The movie depicted many scenes of believers suffering and even losing their lives for their faith. These scenes inspired me and made me think: how do I react when I face suffering or loss? I realize that I often respond in the flesh; I may complain, get anxious, blame others, or worse. In this final passage of his letter, Peter gives us succinct and helpful exhortations to help us overcome the tendency to respond in the flesh and how to resist the devil during trials and temptations. As this passage brings us to the end of the epistle, I will also give a thematic summary of the whole book of 1 Peter.
1 Pet 5:1-5 What is the role of elders in a local church? More specifically, who are the elders at PBCC and what do they do? We’ll answer these and other questions this Sunday as we look into 1 Peter 5:1-5, Peter’s exhortation to the elders. What underlies church leadership is the humility and servant leadership exemplified by our Lord Jesus. There are lessons here for all of us, whether or not we are elders. Jerry Tu will be preaching and will be joined by the whole board of elders during the service. See you there!
1 Pet 4:7-11 How important is the health and unity of a local church congregation? According to the apostle Peter, the health and unity of a church body are vital in withstanding the hostility to the gospel coming from outside the church, and they are essential if the church seeks to influence the world with the message of God’s grace. But this runs so contrary to the individualistic Christianity prevalent in the United States today. This week we focus on Peter’s word for living in the household of God. Peter mentions four key aspects for the local church: prayers, love, hospitality, and service. God calls us to be intentional in building healthy, caring relationships for the sake of Jesus and his kingdom because the end of all things is near.
1 Pet 4:1-6 The journey for believers is not an easy one. We all face a battle against our temptations and areas of weakness. We want to avoid the extremes of plunging ourselves into human passions or isolating ourselves from the very people we want to influence for Christ. What is required? In a word “perseverance,” neither a giving in or a giving up, even if it entails suffering. This week we will look at how Peter encourages us from two perspectives, from the life of Jesus in the past and our eternal destiny in the future.
1 Pet 3:13-22 Living in an environment hostile to the Jesus of the gospels is no picnic, as the Christians in the first century experienced. What would it be like to be called an evildoer and hated for being a follower of Christ? How are we to respond to this kind of suffering? How are we to respond to suffering in general? Peter has a simple word for all of us: if you suffer, suffer for doing good rather than evil and even when you are suffering, continue to do good. Much easier said than done. What can encourage us? The simple answer is Christ and what God accomplished through him. We will explore the depth of this answer on Sunday.
1 Pet 3:8-12 We return to our series in 1 Peter this Sunday and the reminder that his audience had little or no power to change their less than ideal circumstances. So Peter turned their focus to the one thing they always had control over: their words. Words are a powerful force that have the ability to unify or divide. They can either strengthen or damage one’s witness for Jesus. Peter issues the challenge to his readers to always use their words as instruments of blessing. It seems fair to say the same challenge could be issued to us today!
1 Pet 3:1-7 “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:12 NIV) This verse from Ecclesiastes describing the advantage of being joined with friends and companions rather than remaining alone is often used as a metaphor in marriage ceremonies to describe the union of a man and a woman in Christ. In the world, there is much discord between men and women and husbands and wives. But this is never what God intended. He created male and female so that together they could reveal his glory and grace. The gift of marriage is an aspect of these purposes. Three strands joined together can have incredible influence. Marriage is our topic in the book of 1 Peter this Sunday. But even if you are not married there is much to be gained from these verses that can aid the spread of the gospel in the world.
1 Pet 2:18-25 “That’s not fair!” Something we’ve all thought time and time again. “Life’s not fair” is a reality we try to teach our children, yet it’s also a reality we struggle to accept even as adults. Jesus had every right on numerous accounts to speak up in his own defense with, “That’s not fair.” But He didn’t. He accepted unjust punishment and suffered an unjust death. This was the model He left for us. How can a passage in Peter that speaks to household servants teach us to better represent Jesus 2000 years later? What does it look like? Here’s a hint from Peter: See the “Suffering Servant” passages from Isaiah 53 for the blueprint to follow!
1 Pet 2:13-17 Leadership has been and continues to be necessary for any country or tribe of people. People around the world live under governing authorities and that government differs from nation to nation. Living in the U.S is different than living somewhere else in the world and living in this century is different than living in the 1st century. How are we as pilgrims on earth to relate to governing authorities? This was a question Peter dealt with in his first epistle and a topic we encounter this Sunday, quite appropriately, on the eve of the inauguration and the beginning of a new administration. For us today the topic of government and laws is very complex especially living in a world where we are so aware of global events. The topic raises for us very difficult questions. We will pray for our new leaders on Sunday and raise some challenging questions to ponder. Hopefully this will lead to some edifying discussion and conversations. Remember, as we talked about last week, people are watching and listening to us as followers of Jesus.
1 Pet 2:11-12 As believers, we are pilgrims on the earth making our way towards the heavenly city. The future is certain and we know where we are headed. But we also have a high calling for the present and that is to live not only in a right relationship with God but also within our society. Even though we are weak and imperfect we have been called out of darkness into the light to bring the light of Christ into the world through the way we live our lives. We return this Sunday to Peter’s first epistle, a study we began last winter. We pick up the series as Peter transitions to the main section of the letter. Peter has two concerns. First, when possible they are to live in accordance with the social order of their society. Second, if they suffer for their faith in Jesus (which was already beginning to happen) they are to follow the pattern of Jesus. This is a great word for today, especially in our culture of power and control. People are watching how we live our lives. To prepare for this Sunday you might want to read the first couple of chapters of 1 Peter.
1 Pet 2:9-10