Pastor Barry Robinson

Letters to the Camberwell Congregation from Pastor Barry Robinson

June 2007 - First Peter

June 2007 - The First Book of Peter

Sermon Series on 1 Peter

Dear Church Family,

In July 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in the city of Rome and the entire city was engulfed in flames. Hundreds of public buildings and homes were burned to the ground, leaving many dead and thousands homeless.

History has concluded that the Emperor Nero initiated that fire in order that he might destroy the rickety buildings of Rome and erect some marble palaces and other monuments that he thought would establish his name in history.

It was during this time the story was born that ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned’.

The people of Rome were incensed; they were ready to revolt and overthrow him, so Nero quickly looked around for a scapegoat that he could blame for the fire, and so he started the false rumour that the Christians had burned down the city.

There followed a violent and severe persecution against the Christians:

  • Many were dipped in tar and burned as torches to light the gardens of Nero when he threw an outdoor party
  • They were tied to his chariot and dragged through the streets of Rome until they were dead
  • They were thrown to the lions
  • They were tied up in leather bags, thrown into water so that when the bags shrank, the Christians were squeezed to death; they were then fed to Nero’s dogs
  • He had them crucified, and committed many other horrendous acts of torture all in the name of entertainment and for his pleasure

It is a gigantic understatement to say that it was a difficult time to be a Christian. As the door of persecution was flung open so wide in Rome it didn’t take long for the effect to ripple throughout the entire Empire.

This is the context in which the Apostle Peter wrote what we call The First Letter of Peter, and he wrote it to, mostly Gentile Christians, who were scattered about in cities in the northeast province of what is now Asia Minor, or Turkey.

They were being hounded and persecuted all through the Empire because of Nero's proclamation, and so Peter wrote to encourage them in the face of their difficulties.

He reminded the Christians who faced such opposition that they were strangers in this world and belonged to the King of Heaven. He encouraged them to trust their Creator God and to keep living as God wanted them to live because he was faithful to them and had a home waiting for them.

This, then, is one of the letters of the New Testament especially helpful to anybody who is going through some difficulty.

  • If you are facing the problem of suffering of any kind, then this letter is for you
  • If you are wondering what God is doing in  today’s world and what is going to happen in the face of all the tensions, pressures, and possibilities of terror that await us in the future, then this letter is for you
  • If you want to know how to live a successful Christian life in a very dangerous world, then this is an excellent letter to read because it was written to Christians under similar circumstances

When I read the first epistle of Peter I find an entirely different Peter to the one I read about in the gospels.

In those accounts we find a Peter who wanted the Kingdom of God to come now, and without human suffering. He wanted Jesus to quickly overthrow human government and establish His own. He bristled when Jesus spoke of His imminent suffering and death on the cross of Calvary.

But in this letter, Peter writes about our heavenly hope which will come after the suffering of the saints for their faith. He urges Christians to submit to the divinely ordained human institutions, even when abused and corrupted by sinful leaders. And suffering is not represented as an exception, but as the rule for true believers. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary becomes the pattern for Christian living and service in this life.

In 1 Peter, I see a transformed man, and the theology which turned his thinking and lifestyle upside-down. It can do the same for us as we read his epistle.

Most of all, Peter changed because, despite the trials, the danger and the persecution, he came to know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is my hope that, as we study this letter together, Peter’s words will help you come to know Jesus better and trust Him more fully as well.

That we will come to see that the One who was Lord of the first century is Lord of the twenty-first century; He has all power in His control, no matter what difficult and dangerous circumstances we encounter.

My prayer is that through this coming series of sermons you’ll find Peter’s letter an encouragement to stand fast in living for Jesus in a hostile world (1 Peter 5:12), and that as we do so may ‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance’ (1Peter 1:2)

With love in Jesus’ name,

Barry Robinson