The Roman Emperor Nero began persecuting Christians on a very horrible and violent level. Tacitus, the Roman historian, records that “Nero falsely accused and executed with the most exquisite punishments those people called Christians…And perishing they were additionally made into sports: they were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps. Nero gave his own gardens for this spectacle…” (Annals, translated by Richard Hooker).
It was during this time that Peter would have written his first epistle to Christians who would undergo some of these executions. His encouragement to them was to stay faithful to Christ. He wrote in 1 Pet. 1:7 that some them would have their faith “tested by fire.” The thought of being torn apart by dogs, crucified, or burned as torches to light the night would be enough to panic the bravest of souls. So in the first ten verses of chapter one, Peter reminds his readers of three principal Christian truths that would serve to strengthen them in times of difficulty. These are good for every Christian to take note of when facing trials.
First, Christians must not forget what God had done in their lives. God has “sanctified” (1:2) and “begotten” (1:3) us. This was done at our baptism where the blood of Jesus (1:2) was contacted. The power in our hope is through His resurrection (1:3). (Note also 1 Pet. 3:21.)
Second, Christians need to remember what God has promised to do. He has promised salvation (1:10), an inheritance that will never fade away (1:4), and the reservation of a place in heaven (1:4).
Finally, Christians should bear in mind what God is doing. He is in control of every situation and is regulating it so that our faith can be purified and strengthened (1:7). He is making it so that we can always express joy (1:6,8).
The thought of persecution or difficult times can cause one’s heart to miss a beat. But knowing what God is doing through the trials helps God’s people not to miss a step.