Living God's Manifold Grace

1 Peter 4:7-16

Pentecost – Last Days, New Life Begins
Peter’s letter was written not long before his death under persecution, 32+ yrs after Pentecost, 35 yrs after he first met Jesus. He was spokesman on Pentecost, interpreting the strange events to Jews crowding Jerusalem from all over the Roman empire. Possibly a few of his readers were there.
Filled with this new experience of God’s Spirit, given by the crucified and resurrected Jesus, he knew that this was the fulfillment of ancient promises from God (Joel, David, etc.), promises that marked it as the start of a new age, the “last days,” when the God of Israel would give his life, his Spirit to all people, men and women, old and young, even slaves, all would receive his gifts of grace.

Freedom Under Oppression

1 Peter 2:9-25

Living Hope / Resident Aliens – The Inside Challenge
Pagans, Jews, slave, free – the communities Peter addresses were remarkable. We today struggle with diverse communities as did cities of the Roman empire. Christian communities lived with increasing pressure of hostility and persecution. They had become resident aliens. God had called them into a “living hope” created by Jesus’ resurrection. That new birth created the tension between the deep reality of their identity in Jesus and the structures of life and society where they lived and worked. You are a “holy nation” but also perhaps a slave woman abused at the whim of her master.
They had experienced the transformation of their lives within an empire explicitly based on class hierarchy, slavery, sexual hierarchy, ethnicity, and violence, with no opening for political change.
How do you live? You want revenge, rebellion. You want passivity. You want to go back to pagan life: career success, standing in the community. Peter says those desires are at war against your life. Don’t react. Rather actively create an excellent, beautiful way of life. No malice, guile, envy. Learn love, forgiveness. That’s who you are. Live that. Don’t let reaction to evil make you violent, envious. Even under oppression, let every act you control create a place of beauty, God’s glory lived out.

The Ancient Future

1 Peter 2:1-10

Learning a Living Hope – Following the Prophets
Peter is leading believers under stress to grasp what it means that they’ve been “born again into a living hope” by Jesus’ resurrection from death. He’s talked of their future imperishable inheritance and that even as they face present persecution they’re guarded by God’s power for salvation. It all centers around Jesus, who brings inexpressible joy and a present experience of that salvation [1:3-9].
Peter knows how hard it is to become spiritual “resident aliens” in a vast empire with contrary values. He want them to know the depth of the story, the ancient past, that’s now theirs. In fact, what they are experiencing through Jesus’ resurrection is the fulfillment of the deepest promises of that past.
He doesn’t tell stories. They’ve probably learned them. He weaves together reflections on those stories in the language of scriptures they can study to help them understand their own life and identity. What they experience in their ‘modern’ time corresponds to what prophets saw in Israel’s life. He leads them into the rich poetic language of scripture to express the transformation they experience.

Minds Prepared for Action

1 Peter 1:13-25

Minds Ready to Move, Act, Serve, Do...
In 1 Pet 1:1-12, Peter writes to believers as "resident aliens" facing intense trials, but born again into "a living hope" by Jesus' resurrection. Thus they celebrate even under persecution. They have not seen Jesus, but love and trust him, and experience joy and glory and the deliverance of their lives.
The result is not passivity but readiness for action that can respond to diverse challenging situations. We "gird up the loins of our minds" (KJV). Like Israel at the Exodus, ready to move, to act at a moment's notice. Deliverance of our life / soul is a process in which we actively participate. Think clearly, soberly. Commit to our direction: Set your hope on the grace we see as we see Jesus. That grace has already been revealed and will be fully revealed. We live in and learn that Grace.

Born into a Living Hope

1 Peter 1:1-13

Identity Papers for Resident Aliens
1 Peter takes us into the life of 1st century Christians under intense stress. Peter writes "through Silvanus" (5:12) from Rome to Gentile and Jewish believers scattered across northern Asia Minor (Turkey). Tradition says Peter was executed in Nero's persecution in a.d. 64 after fire in Rome.
The experience of dislocation by joining new communities of faith and then suffering persecution stamps the intensity of the letter. Who am I? Why is this happening? Where's my life going? Should I stay?