Peter wrote to disciples who were being harassed because they had chosen to follow Jesus (4:16). There’s nothing to suggest their lives were at stake, but things were definitely more difficult because of their allegiance to Christ. Rejection from anyone, but especially loved ones, would leave them feeling confused, broken and unsure. They needed some very basic reassurance in regard to the direction their life was headed in.
It’s no surprise then that Peter spends substantial time affirming their core identity. They are exiles, chosen, sanctified, recipients of great mercy, shielded by God’s power, and much, much more. In v. 8, he zeroes in on their relationship to Jesus. Peter wants them to know that despite the ridicule of family, neighbor or co-workers, they were receiving “the salvation of your souls” (v. 9). A salvation that the prophets bore witness to (v. 10ff).
There’s something special about all of this in that Peter, no stranger to hard times himself, speaks encouragement to these followers of Jesus who were going through their own tough times. If anyone knew what it was like to be put on the spot for being a follower of Christ, he did. He understood what the pressure felt like. He even knew what is was to fold in the face of it. No one was better qualified to speak to people in the situation the believers were in than Peter.
His words are well chosen and just what they needed to hear. It’s likely that these Jewish disciples were taking heat from their synagogue friends and family in regard to their embrace of Jesus as the Messiah. You can imagine conversations where objections would be aired, “But you never even met Jesus—you’re just taking someone’s word about Him.” Others might be even more blunt—”You don’t know Him!” The man who had himself proclaimed, “I don’t know the man,” would understand the pain of such an accusation.
He assures them that even though they had not seen Jesus as He had, they loved Him and believed Him as He did. There’s no suggestion that their faith and love are in any way, shape or form less than his. He speaks of “the genuineness of your faith” (v. 7). Proverbs tell us, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the words of the wise brings healing” (12:18). Peter’s words do just that for these disciples who are struggling to find their footing in trying times.
In addition to this faith and love for Jesus, they had “inexpressible and glorious joy” (v. 8). That’s what happens when you believe in and love Jesus—you have joy beyond words. It is glorious because it is the very joy of Jesus. He told His apostles, “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” This tells us something important about joy. It is not possessed only on those rare, serendipitous moments when everything comes together for a few hours, it belongs to those who belong to Jesus—even when you’re up to your neck in hard times.
When come to our identity, it’s not who we are that is ultimately important but whose we are! That’s an identity for all times.