This is the outline to a lesson I taught a while back. Numbers of these thoughts are not very well developed, so if you have questions or comments, feel free to take advantage of the comment section below.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 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:
A Trinitarian Greeting. I think it is important to note here, before we dive into the nitty gritty of looking at 1 Peter, that the actions of God in salvation are laid out in Trinitarian terms. Why is this important? Because the doctrine of the Trinity, our understanding of God's Threeness and Oneness, is the most distinctive doctrine of orthodox Christianity. It is not the mono-personal understanding of other monotheistic religions, such as Islam or Judaism, but it is also not polytheistic in the way that Buddhism or Hinduism or Mormonism are. To believe, as Wayne Grudem summarizes it, that
1) God is Three Persons,
2) Each of these Three Persons is fully God, and
3) There is One God
is a distinctly Christian way of understanding the universe and to conceive of God. It underpins our salvation, it makes sense of a world in which both unity and diversity exist, and it makes possible the eternal reality of love, in ways that no other understanding of God can do justice to.
So while Peter does not give a full discourse on the doctrine, I do believe it important to note from the outset that Peter operates with a Trinitarian concept of God that is implicit in the way he greets these believers.
Who is writing? The Apostle Peter, one of our Lord's closest associates during His earthly ministry. Peter is one of the 12 who Jesus named Apostles and promised to build His church upon. Within the 12, he is one of the three closest to Christ, along with James and John. These three are given privileges the other disciples are not, seeing Jairus's daughter raised, seeing Jesus transfiguration, etc. But even among these three, Peter stands out. He is the most vocal of the apostles, is the first mentioned in each of the four lists of the 12, and seems to vacillate between heavenly insight and human blindness, Godly boldness and mortal cowardice. He is, perhaps, the most relatable disciple.
More pertinent to our look at this book, Peter is also one of the key figures in the early church, the preacher at Pentecost, a leader in the church in Rome near the end of his life, and a prolific evangelist. And, as we see here, a letter writer.
To whom is he writing? Peter identifies his audience as those living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These were all Roman provinces in what we now call Turkey. His audience is likely a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers, in churches scattered across this region. The ordering of the provinces leads us to believe that perhaps Silvanus, who carried the letter, may have followed a trade loop which went through these areas in this order. But that is speculation, an not of much importance in our understanding of the letter's content.
What is the background?
How does Peter address these believers? What does he mean by elect exiles? See Hebrews 11
Elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. What is meant by foreknowledge? See verse 20. Is it a simple knowledge of the future or is something deeper implied? Amos 3:1-2, Romans 8:29-30, Genesis 4:1
God has known us from before the foundation of the world. He has loved us deeply since we were.
Elect exiles in the sanctification of the Spirit. Is this a current event or a past one? Commentators differ. See 2 Thessalonians 2:13
I think it makes more sense to take this as referring to a past setting us apart. That is, I think this sanctification is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that precedes and enables faith. I take it partly this way because I think our next clause only makes sense as referring to a past event, and so it makes sense to take this one the same way. Also, to understand it this way would be to understand Peter as laying out our salvation in how it has already been accomplished for us, and how we are then to live, hope, and suffer, in light of this reality. Essentially his greeting is to preface and prepare them for the body of the letter.
Elect exiles for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood. What is meant by obedience? I believe, chiefly, our faith. See Romans 1:5, 16:25, John 3:16, 18, 36. The first and primary act of obedience required of us is obedience to the Gospel itself. Jesus come on the seen in Mark 1:15 saying, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” All other obedience flows from this obedience.
What about sprinkling with his blood? Again, some commentators try to make this a continual thing, like in the OT when the people had to be made ceremonially clean by repeated sprinklings of blood. Basically they see this as what happens when we sin, come and ask for forgiveness and are received back into intimate fellowship with the Father. But I just don’t think that holds water. Let’s look at Hebrews 9, a rather extended portion, verses 11-28.
The OT system is a copy, Christ’s sacrifice is the real deal. We don’t need continual sprinkling with His blood, we have been sprinkled with His blood. Period. Full stop.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Or, be yours in abundance. If we rightly understand our salvation, is this not the natural result? What could cause us to be filled with more peace, what truth could grace our hearts and cause us to be gracious more than this understanding of our pursuing God acting sovereignly on our behalf?