As we begin our study in I Peter, let us notice some background information about this epistle written by the apostle known as “the rock.” (Matthew 16:13-20).
Acceptance of Peter’s authorship of this letter is virtually unanimous. His letter was written during a time of religious persecution of Christians. Rather than an official edict from the Roman government, the sufferings these first century believers faced were then, and are today, the trials common to all Christians. These include insults (4:4; 14), slanderous accusations of wrongdoing (2:12; 3:16) and beatings (2:20); resulting from social isolation and resulting in mob violence.
The Roman government and culture perceived Christians, like many Jews, as antisocial. Certain stereotypes became common: Christians were “atheists” (like some philosophers, for rejecting the many Roman gods), “cannibals” (for claiming to eat Jesus’ “body” and drink his “blood”), and incestuous (for statements like “I love you, brother,” or “I love you, sister”).
According to some early first century historians, the Roman Emperor Nero burned Christians alive as torches to light his gardens at night. He killed other Christians in equally severe ways such as feeding them to animals for public amusement. In all, it is estimated that Nero must have murdered thousands of Roman Christians, although most Christians escaped his grip. Many Christians saw Nero as a type of antichrist.
Peter intends to instruct and encourage believers who are experiencing the pain of persecution for their faith in Christ. Such encouragement was not only needed then, but also today as Christians are increasingly experiencing the pain of persecution and discrimination because of their faith.
God has much to communicate through the Apostle Peter. Let us begin to listen to what He has to say.
Soli deo Gloria!