The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), December 21
Christians don’t belong in this world; they live for another time and another place. They are pilgrims–foreigners. And, like foreigners in the past and in the present, they are generally misunderstood and persecuted.
The group of English Puritans who fled religious persecution and sailed in the Mayflower to found the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 were called pilgrims. Their desire for religious freedom enabled them to leave all that was familiar and to embrace a long and tedious journey to the unknown that lay before them.
Peter uses the word pilgrim to describe first century believers who, as a result of persecution, live in lands other than those of their birth: “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1-2). He reminds them that theirs is an eternal inheritance, not a temporal inheritance: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1:3-4). Pilgrims, therefore, live differently from those around them. They wear a target on their back. They are persecuted.
Peter’s address to persecuted Christ-followers reminds believers of several helpful truths about persecution:
- Persecution reminds Christ’s followers that this is an unfriendly world to Christ and to those who follow Him.
- Persecution causes joy to erupt in the hearts of those refined by it—“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials” (1:6).
- Persecution reveals, refines and matures faith—“that the genuineness of your faith . . . though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:7).
- Persecution pries open the hands that cling to a world that is perishing; it reminds believers that their inheritance isn’t earthly, but heavenly: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1:3-4).
- Persecution forces believers to move toward one another and to stick together.
- Persecution shaped the faith of the prophets of the past, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1:10-11), and it shapes the faith of believers today.
- Persecution followed Jesus everywhere He went; therefore, His followers are not immune.
- Persecution purifies hope until it is living and vibrant. That hope of a future heavenly inheritance sustains those who lose all in this life.
- Persecution highlights the wonder of redemption, “Conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear, knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (1:17-19, emphasis added).
Pilgrims embrace the hardship that occurs as they journey toward that eternal city, whose builder and maker is God.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Heb. 13:1-25; 1 Peter 1:1-2:3):
Summarize the instructions given by the writer of Hebrews at the end of his letter.
How do those instructions compare with those given by Peter in 1 Peter 1:22-2:3?