|Volume 22 Number 9 September 2020||
During the summer of A.D. 64, Nero was the Emperor when much of Rome burned and a bitter persecution arose against Christians. Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus described it in this manner:
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus…
When Peter wrote to the pilgrims of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1), he acknowledged their present trials but alluded to more severe treatment to come, a fiery trial that was to try them (1 Peter 4:12). Most scholars suggest that Peter’s first epistle was written before the ruthless campaign of Nero. So, Peter was preparing his readers, scattered throughout Asia Minor, for a period of bloody mistreatment likely on the scale of what occurred in Rome.
In a few places in today’s world, Christians still face trials of the intensity that existed in first century Rome and Asia Minor. Yet, for most of us, the sufferings we face don’t involve blood.
Nevertheless, the circumstances that trouble us are very real and often very painful. A boss says, “We’re downsizing and I’m afraid you’re one of those on the list.” A doctor says, “We’ve done all that we can do, and that just won’t be enough.” A spouse says, “I’ve found someone else who really makes me feel special.” These and a host of other anguished situations challenge the Christian’s resolve and possibly even his faith.
Herein, we examine Peter’s introductory remarks, as he encouraged believers who were struggling through tough times, which were only going to get tougher. His counsel to them is also divine guidance for us in times of testing.
The Valley of Decision
We read in Joel 3:14, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of decision.” Man is a creature of choice, and throughout life, he will be faced with many decisions. Some of these, of course, will be more critical than others and will carry greater consequences. Each person must realize that he is responsible for his own life and for making his own personal decisions. This is especially true with regard to those that have a direct bearing upon his soul and where he will be in eternity when his life on earth has ended. “Then the dust [body] will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 NKJV). Also read Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.
Will I Make the Decision
to Serve God or Satan?
As accountable beings, we have the capability of making this choice. Notice what Joshua said in Joshua 24:14-15. “Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve ye Jehovah. And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.” Please notice that the decision was in their hands. God does not force anyone to serve Him, but He will richly reward those who do. Those who choose to do otherwise will be punished. They bring ruin upon their own heads, which could have been avoided. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), “who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
So, you see, God’s ideal will is that all men might be saved, but He knows that man’s freedom of choice is involved and cannot be violated. Therefore, God provided a way for men to be reconciled to Him and invited men to come to Him upon His terms. Man can be saved if he is willing to comply with God’s terms. Those who stubbornly refuse will be lost.
Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “Though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:8-9). Read Acts 2:37-47 and 1 Peter 1:22.
Will I Obey the Gospel of Christ
or Wait Till It Is Too Late?
Peter asked the important question in 1 Peter 4:17. “What shall be the end of all those that obey not the gospel of God?” The apostle Paul answered that in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. “And to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” With one’s soul in the balance and Heaven and Hell at issue, why would one wait another day? What is more important than your soul?