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1 Peter 1:1-2

9/07 1 Peter 1:1-2 Christians in Tension

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 petrov apostolov ihsou cristou eklektoiv parepidhmoiv diasporav pontou galatiav kappadokiav asiav kai biyuniav 2 kata prognwsin yeou patrov en agiasmw pneumatov eiv upakohn kai rantismon aimatov ihsou cristou cariv umin kai eirhnh plhyunyeih

Peter introduces himself simply as ‘apostle’. In many of Paul’s writings, he expands this part of the greeting by adding a phrase like ‘by the will of God’ to defend his apostleship. Peter has no need to defend his apostolic authority. He was commissioned by Jesus Christ to speak on his behalf and with his authority. So this letter is to be received as if it came from Jesus and with his authority. If you don’t like what it says, take it up with Jesus. Jesus charged Peter to ‘feed my lambs …tend my sheep… feed my sheep’ (Jn.21); and in this letter Peter, as a shepherd, is tending to the needs of the suffering sheep that are scattered across Asia Minor. Peter is buttressing the belief of his readers by pointing them to God and to strong truths about God. They can stand firm in the fiery trial because of who God is and what he is doing for them and in them. They need an unshakable theological understanding under their feet so that they can stand as Christians in the middle of a hostile society. He declares his purpose in 5:12

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter is coming alongside the believers, encouraging them and testifying to them of the truth about God. He wants to see holiness developed in them. He wants to see them stand firm in the grace of God. He wants to strengthen their hope that God, Father, Son and Spirit, is working for their good to secure their salvation.

It’s a bit peculiar that in a letter to people Peter has probably never met, he says hardly anything about his own identity, but he spends a lot of time telling the readers who they are. We would say ‘Hi, you don’t know me, so let me tell you about myself’. Instead Peter says ‘you don’t know me, so let me tell you who you are.’ That seems odd for a stranger to say ‘I don’t know you very well, but let me tell you about yourself’. He is telling them things that are true about them that they either don’t know, or that they know but need to be reminded of. Peter wants them to understand their identity in Christ. They need to know who they are.

He addresses them as ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He uses the Jewish metaphor of ‘diaspora’ or ‘dispersion’. In 722 B.C. The Assyrians under Shalmaneser V conquered and carried off many from the northern kingdom of Israel and then in 588 B.C. under Nebuchadnezzar II the southern kingdom of Judah was carried off into Babylon. The nations into which they went did their best to assimilate them and integrate them into their society, culture and religion. The Jews had to struggle to retain their ethnic and religious distinctiveness. Because they maintain their unique identity, they are ‘exiles’ or sojourners, resident aliens in a place that is not their home.

This was the experience of Abraham. God had called Abram the idol worshiper of Ur of the Chaldeans to:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …

Abraham went to the land and he described himself to the Hittites as:

Genesis 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you;…”

The author of Hebrews uses the same wording that Peter does to describe the situation of the Old Testament saints:

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Because these people had embraced Jesus as their God, they had become strangers in their own hometowns. They no longer belong to the culture in which they live. They have become sojourners. But he describes them as ‘elect exiles’ or ‘chosen outcasts’ or ‘ the selected rejected’. These are Christians in tension. In relation to the culture in which they reside, they are outside the group. They are different. They don’t belong. They don’t fit in. They don’t think and feel and act the way the rest of society thinks and feels and acts. And because of that, they are rejected and persecuted. But in relation to God they are elect. They have been chosen, hand picked. They have been called out by name. They are loved by God. The word ‘elect’ eklektov means those who have been selected as a subset of a larger group. ISBE says “…prevalently in the New Testament, it denotes a human community, also described as believers, saints, the Israel of God; regarded as in some sense selected by Him from among men, objects of His special favor, and correspondingly called to special holiness and service.” This is a common name for Christians in the New Testament, and often they are described as ‘God’s elect’ or ‘his elect’.

Mark 13:20 …But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose,…

Mark 13:22 … signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Mark 13:27 …gather his elect from the four winds…

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?…

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones,…

Titus 1:1 …for the sake of the faith of God’s elect

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race… a people for his own possession…

This term points to the safety and security of the believer’s position with God. We cannot lose our position because we didn’t attain it by climbing the ladder of accomplishment. God picked us out and placed us here, and he will also preserve and protect us. It is a position of privilege to be picked to be on God’s team. But this choice of God is also the source of our trouble here on earth. When you get picked for the team, your friends who didn’t get picked get jealous and hostile and angry. This is exactly what Jesus told his disciples would happen:

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Because God chose you to be his own, the world hates you. So don’t cry when you look around and see that the world hates you. Remember, it’s because you were picked out by God. The world hates you because you’re on God’s team now and you are different from them. Because we are elect, we are exiles, sojourners. We no longer belong. Paul describes our alien status this way:

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Peter uses three prepositional phrases to further describe his readers, the ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He says they are ‘according to’, ‘in’ and ‘for’. And he describes the work of the triune God in their lives; God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ. He says in verse 2:

2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

First, he says they are elect exiles of the dispersion ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’. The word foreknowledge ‘prognwsiv‘ is a compound of ‘pro‘ before and ‘ginwskw‘ to know. It means ‘to know before’. This is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’, which the dictionary defines as ‘A prediction of the probable course and outcome’ But with God, it is not merely the probable course and outcome that he knows, but he knows and can predict with absolute certainty the course and outcome. But the use of the word ‘foreknowledge’ in the bible means more than simply God’s omniscience and his ability to know the future ahead of time. That is certainly true, and that is what the word means when it is used with and event or an object. But the concept of knowing when it is used with a person as its object carries with it the idea of relationship. All the way back in the beginning, it says:

Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…

There is clearly more than intellectual comprehension involved in this kind of ‘knowing’. God uses this word of Abraham:

Genesis 18:18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Of the prophet Jeremiah, God says:

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Notice the parallels between ‘knew’, ‘consecrated’, and ‘appointed’. In Amos, God says to Israel:

Amos 3:1-2 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…

The context is that God is about to punish Israel and their sins are especially grievous because he has a special relationship with them. That can’t possibly mean that God was unaware that there were other people on the planet besides Israel.

The only other place in the New Testament that this word occurs is in Acts 2:23 where it is coupled with the ordained will of God:

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

The verb form appears in:

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 11:2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

1 Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake,

The concept of foreknowledge carries not only the idea of comprehension of future events, but when the word is used of people, it carries the idea of a purpose of relationship. The readers of Peter’s letter are elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. They are chosen according to the Father’s purpose to enter into relationship with them. They are picked for intimacy with the Father. And Peter tells them this right up front in his letter; before he even says ‘hello’. He urgently wants them to hear this truth so that they would be encouraged in their suffering by it and take hope. Yes, you are an outcast in your family and in society, but God the Father chose to place his love on you! So he describes them as elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

Then he describes them as elect exiles ‘in or by means of the sanctification of the Spirit’. Sanctification ‘agiasmov‘ means ‘consecration, purification, or holiness’. Something that is sanctified is set apart for a specific use. Paul talks about vessels set apart for a specific use:

2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

In that day there were specific vessels that were set apart for the preparation and serving of food. There were other vessels used in the bedchamber as a commode. They were set apart for that use. In a pinch, you might take a vessel set apart for kitchen use and use it as a commode, but that vessel would never be fit for kitchen service again. That’s the concept of being ‘sanctified’ or ‘set apart’; you’re the dirty clay pot, but you’ve been cleansed and purified and made holy, made fit for honorable use. And this is specifically said to be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God cleans you and sets you apart for a good use.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

And these elect exiles had a purpose. They were elect exiles ‘for or into obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’. Their purpose is to be brought into obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus. Obedience (upakoh) comes from the root ‘to hear’ and ‘under’; it means to be under authority, to hear and obey. Several times in the New Testament this word is used to describe people’s response to the gospel message:

Romans 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience––by word and deed,

Romans 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, …according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith–– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

So where we would say things like ‘they got saved’ or ‘trusted Jesus’ or ‘believed the gospel’, the New Testament writers also described this as ‘they obeyed the gospel’ or ‘became obedient to the faith’ or ‘they obeyed Jesus’. Jesus said when he was asked:

John 6:28-29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Obedience is one side of the picture of our purpose. The other side is ‘into the sprinkling blood of Jesus Christ’. The picture of sprinkling blood comes from the covenant God made with the people in Exodus:

Exodus 24:5-8 …offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Upon their declaration of submission to God and obedience to him, they were sprinkled with his blood. And the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant

Hebrews 9:13-15 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…

So we have the elected rejected, according to the Father’s purpose to set his love on us; by the Holy Spirit’s work of setting us apart for honorable use, and into the obedience to the truth and cleansing by the blood of Jesus. We see this same sequence in 2 Thessalonians as a grounds for thanksgiving:

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

And now, after Peter has poured out this theological foundation for the faith of these suffering saints and pointed them to the Triune God who is at work in them to secure for them their eternal salvation, now he says ‘hi’. He says ‘May grace and peace be multiplied to you’. Grace, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense; God’s goodness poured out on undeserving sinners; blessings and kindness that we didn’t earn and couldn’t deserve.

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

And because God is gracious toward us, we can

Romans 5:1 …we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

So Peter takes his readers who are feeling like aliens without any sense of belonging, and he lifts their eyes (and ours) up from the dirt and points to a God who is for us, who chose us, to the Father who set his love upon us, the Spirit who is at work in us to set us apart and to make us holy; to Jesus, who upon our obedience to the good news, sprinkles us clean with his precious blood. And he asks that this undeserved grace of God and this blood-bought peace with God be exaggerated to us, that God’s grace and peace would flood over us and overwhelm us and surround us and hold us.


elect exiles of the dispersion…

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

in the sanctification of the Spirit

for obedience

and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ

September 7, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment