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On July 19th of 64 AD a fire broke out in the capitol city of Rome, which burned for three days and three nights. When the flames were finally extinguished and the citizens of Rome began to grasp how much they had lost, historians tell us that the whole city descended into a “hopeless brotherhood of wretchedness.” This wretchedness quickly turned to furious rage at Emperor Nero.

Nero was already known to be a tyrant. He had made life for the Romans miserable. The Roman Historian Suetonius in his book The Rise of the Caesars wrote extensively about Nero. During his reign he outlawed “the sale of any kind of cooked foods in the taverns" (so there was no "indoor dining"). He also set limits on "public banquets" (so there was no "outdoor dining" either).

With popular opinion rising against him, Nero needed someone to take the blame for what had happened. Tragically, it was Christians who became the scapegoat for his own monumental failures.

Tacitus (who was no friend of Christians) wrote:
'Neither human assistance in the shape of imperial gifts, nor attempts to appease the gods, could remove the sinister report that the fire was due to Nero's own order. And so, in the hope of dissipating this rumour, he falsely diverted the charge on to a set of people to whom the vulgar gave the name of Chrestians…The founder of this name, one Christus by name, had been executed by Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. (Annals 15:44)

Tacitus goes on to describe the persecution and the suffering of the Christians in Rome:
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. (Annals 15:44)

Finally, Nero declared Christianity to be illegal throughout the Roman empire. The Christian historian Sulipicius Severus wrote in chapter 19 of  his Chronicle:
Afterwards, too, their religion was prohibited by laws which were enacted; and by edicts openly set forth it was proclaimed unlawful to be a Christian.

Mercifully, in God’s infinite kindness, just a few months before the events of July 19, 64 AD. God put it in the heart of the Apostle Peter to write a letter to Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire, especially in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).

Peter could smell the coming persecution like acrid smoke drifting through the air.
The fires of persecution were still some distance away, but Peter knew that they were coming.
So, from his home in Rome, he sat down with his friend Silvanus and wrote one of the most encouraging letters in the Bible. 1 Peter is a letter that is written out of the depth and warmth of a true pastor’s heart, as he writes to those who he knows will soon enter into the fires of persecution.

Last Sunday (1/17/21) our church began a new expository series on 1 Peter. I chose to take us to 1 Peter for several reasons, but mostly because of the remarkable similarities between Peter's day and our own day:
  • Much like in Peter's day, Christians today have enjoyed a long season of relative peace and tranquility, as the world seemed to slumber, almost unaware of our presence.
  • Just as the great fire that consumed Rome represented an Emergency Situation for the government to exercise unprecedented power and authority over its people, so too our world has been subjected to an emergency with our own authorities exercising unprecedented power and authority over our lives.
  • Just as it was Christians who the government was able to blame for societies woes, so too it seems that religious conservatives are increasingly being targeted and blamed for everything that is wrong in this world.

I am deeply persuaded that we need this book right now.
There’s never been a time in my life when I’ve needed this book more than I do right now.
So, I'd like to invite you to join us on this journey of exploring 1 Peter together at Cool Community Church.