Imagine you lived a few thousand years ago, hundreds of miles away from someone, and the only way to communicate with them was to sit down and write a letter, and then find someone to hand deliver it to them by walking or riding on the back of a beast for many days through rough terrain.
How many letters would you send? The odds are, few, if any.
For someone as busy as Peter, to sit down and write a letter to then have it delivered would indicate that the people he was writing to had a deep need that only his wise counsel could most help. The fact that such letters were written by the apostles, and delivered by trusted members of their ministry teams, reveals the great love they had for people with great need.
The churches and Christians who received Peter’s letter would have been tremendously honored and encouraged at the willingness of such a noteworthy Christian leader to take the time, although he had never even met them, to speak into their life with practical pastoral affection. Imagine, for example, finding an old letter to your local church hand-written by Billy Graham revealing in great detail his knowledge and love for the people. Also, the fact that Peter took the time to pen not one, but two letters, indicates that there were serious concerns that had escalated to the point of urgency.
The original audience of 1 Peter was a suffering audience. Before the widespread governmental persecution of Christians arose, there was a growing undercurrent of disdain for Christians that paved the way for persecution. Those are the underlying reasons that 1-2 Peter were written.
Like all of us, they had trials, troubles, and temptations that threatened to exhaust them until they defeated them. What was the nature of this suffering? Jobes writes, “Virtually all commentators understand the persecutions referred to in 1 Peter to be sporadic, personal, and unorganized social ostracism of Christians with varying intensity, probably reinforced at the local level by the increasing suspicions of Roman officials at all levels.” (1) This explains Peter’s references to such things as “trials”, “tested by fire”, “sojourners and exiles”, “sorrow”, “suffering”, “beaten”, “harm”, “slander”, “revile”, “fiery trial”, “insulted”, “anxieties”, etc.
Bible commentator Paul Achtemeier agrees that the persecution in 1 Peter is, “due more to unofficial harassment than to official policy, more local than regional, and more at the initiation of the general populace as the result of a reaction against the lifestyle of the Christians than at the initiation of Roman officials because of some general policy of seeking out and punishing Christians. That does not rule out the possibility that persecutions occurred over large areas of the empire; they surely did, but they were spasmodic and broke out at different times in different places, the result of the flare up of local hatreds rather than because Roman officials were engaged in the regular discharge of official policy.” (2)
(1) Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 9.
(2) Peter Achtemeier, 1 Peter (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 35–36.
To download the free e-book ODD LIFE: Good God which is a study in 1 Peter for individuals, groups, and families from Pastor Mark click HERE. To listen to Pastor Mark’s 9 sermons on 1 Peter preached in the summer of 2020, click HERE. These and other resources are made possible by our ministry partners who support Real Faith as a Bible teaching ministry of Mark Driscoll Ministries to whom we say THANK YOU!