(Given the commitment The River has to reading Scripture well and to discipleship, one of the purposes of the website blog will be to model reading texts and making appropriate application. This post will be the first of a series that will take us through Peter’s first epistle. We’ll be using the New American Standard Bible translation.)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. ~ 1 Peter 1:1–2
We know from the early chapters of Acts, that Peter was a leader in the church in Jerusalem. We also know that when persecution against the followers of Jesus arose in that city many of the disciples fled. These two thoughts are reflected in the opening verses of Peter’s letter.
Peter writes to “those who reside as aliens, scattered.” Peter uses the very word that Luke used to describe the “scattering” of believers in the face of persecution (Acts 8:1,4; 11:19; you could discover this through the use of a concordance or Bible study software). As a result, these scattered believers “reside as aliens;” they are only temporary sojourners in the lands in which they find themselves. A glance at a Bible map will show how far from Jerusalem these sojourners had traveled.
Beyond their geographical “scatteredness,” Peter has a more important way to identify those to whom he writes. Notice well how Peter speaks of his recipients.
They are the “chosen;” or as other translations render it, “the called.” Why this identification? At the very beginning of this epistle, Peter wants his readers to know that no matter where in the world they might find themselves, they are not lost, wandering, or unknown. They are, in fact, in the center of the will of God–they have been personally called by God to Himself.
Then notice how Peter builds on that. He offers three qualifiers to fill in the picture of this “calledness.” (Pay attention to the different prepositions Peter uses to introduce each phrase.) His readers are chosen:
According to the foreknowledge of God the Father. Their chosen-ness is the result of the deliberate willing of the Father.
By the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Their chosen-ness is experienced through the Spirit’s work of “sanctification”–the idea of sanctification being to be set apart to God and for God.
To obey Christ Jesus and be sprinkled with His blood. And this chosen-ness has in view their lives coming into conformity to all Christ Jesus wants for them and for them to be “sprinkled with His blood.” That last image, drawing on Old Testament imagery, pictures cleansing from sin and the experience of atonement.
Each of these ideas will be unpacked further by Peter in his letter. Here we get just a small taste of some great theology. (Yes, even in his greeting we do get good theology!)
In spite of their outward circumstances, Peter’s readers are living Trinitarian-rooted lives. The Father has chosen them for Himself; the Spirit is at work to set them apart to and for God; the Son’s life provides for them not only their forgiveness but their call to a life like His own.
Once we see this we can ask ourselves: Do I understand my life as rooted in what the Triune God is doing, or do I default to seeing myself in light of my outward circumstances only?