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From Persecution To Proclamation

Peter is nearing the end of his ministry.  Peter wrote two letters toward the end of his life: 1 & 2 Peter.  He wrote them about a year apart: 1 Peter around 65 AD and 2 Peter around 66 AD.  When Peter wrote, Roman persecution had already started.  Emperor Nero (37 – 68 AD) made it a crime to be a Christian in 64 AD.  He was the first, and perhaps the craziest and cruelest, of 10 Roman Emperors that would hunt Christians until the end of Diocletian’s persecution in 311 AD.  Peter himself would die in Rome under Nero’s persecution.

Peter is preparing Christians to face the violence.  Since persecution was present, Peter was concerned about 2 things.  First, he wanted to make sure that violence did not weaken the faith of believers.  Therefore, he spends Chapter 1 & 2 making sure believers understand the security of their salvation and the protection and blessing that result when believers are faithful to God in difficult times.  Second, Peter is concerned that believers endure hardship with a good testimony, so that the violence will result in the growth of the Gospel and the salvation of some of the persecutors.  Therefore, he spends Chapters 2 & 3 teaching about the blessings and methods of suffering for righteousness (2:18, 21).  Since God sovereignly blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked (3:12; Psalm 34:15-16), believers who keep strong in faith and testimony can turn persecution into evangelism, just like the Egyptian persecution in Exodus and the Jewish persecution in Acts caused the Gospel to grow. 

Peter wants believers to know that God is fully able and willing to fully protect His own, especially when they do what is right.  Peter poses the question, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good (1 Peter 3:13)?”   This question is like Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who is against us?”  Or Romans 8:32: “He Who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  Or the statement in Hebrews 13:6 from Psalm 118:6: “The LORD is my Helper, I will not be afraid; what shall man do to me?”  God is able and willing to protect His children.  Peter proved this in 3:12 by quoting Psalm 34:15-16: “For the eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”  However, there is another option.

God may have believers suffer for the sake of testimony, just like Christ.  God is able and willing to protect His children.  However, He may have them suffer for the sake of righteousness (3:14).  Of course, for this to happen, the Christian must actually be righteousness (2:20).  Therefore, Peter indicates that this situation is comparatively rare (3:14).  If the believer is righteous and God should will that he suffer (4:19), it is a ‘blessed’ situation (3:14).  In this special case, God allows the Christian to suffer to awaken the conscience of the persecutors to repentance.  This happened when Peter preached at Pentecost (2:37), when Stephen prayed for Saul as he was dying (Acts 7:60) and when Paul saved the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:28).  In this blessed scenario, the Christian turns persecution into evangelism by being calm, ready, and speaking biblically and respectfully.

Turn persecution into Evangelism: share Christ humbly and clearly at all times!