Friday, December 28, 2012

1 Peter 1:1-2

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

The Introduction (vs 1)
Notice that the Peter though declaring himself an apostle of Jesus Christ, first addresses himself by his name given him by the Lord, and not by a formal title such as Apostle Peter, Pastor Peter, or Overseer Peter etc., but simply as Peter. Thus Peter (though an apostle of Jesus Christ) addresses himself to all believers in a very personal way, as a fellow believer and pilgrim in the faith, and not in a hierarchical tone seeking homage or honor from men (consider Acts 10:25-26). 
Rather Peter, like Paul when identifying himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ only does so, so as to either authenticate his epistle (i.e. letter) or to remind believers of the authority by which he was writing to them, that is as one of the Lord Jesus Christ's chosen apostles, and not some false apostle writing on their own authority (consider 2 Cor 11:13-15; Rev 2:2). That said it is clear that in all of Paul's and Peters writings to believers everywhere there is no hint of hierarchical arrogance or partiality whether towards Jewish or Gentile believers. Rather Paul like Peter, as well as James and John for that matter clearly saw themselves first and foremost as simply brethren to other believers or as bondservants of Jesus Christ and servants of the entire church regardless of a believers ethnicity or social standing (consider Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; James 1:1; 2 John; 3 John). For again it is quite clear in the N.T. that neither Peter nor any of the Lord Jesus Christ's chosen apostles after Pentecost were concerned about people acknowledging either their or their own offices "titles and prestige". Rather they, and here Peter was first and foremost concerned about the churches well being, and that means to any truly Christ chosen and equipped apostle or leader all the people within it (consider John 21:15-17).

Now Peter was specifically chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ as His apostle and was equipped by Him through the Holy Spirit to serve Him and all believers in that very important capacity. And thus his letters though addressed to the pilgrims of the Dispersion (which we'll look at in a second) are applicable to us all who likewise believe in and want to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus Peter having introduced himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ so that all who read his epistle (or letter) will know that it is he who is writing to us on Christ's authority, then addresses his epistle to the "pilgrims of the Dispersion" a phrase which looks back to Old Testament Israel who were scattered abroad for their ongoing disobedience (i.e. unfaithfulness) to God. And so here Peter is only drawing a parallel with them as far as believers being currently dispersed abroad from their native lands and territories. Which in all likelihood came about because of their faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ and not disobedience to God as was the case with the O.T. Israelites.
Which means this epistle must have been written to them (and for us all) sometime after the first persecutions of believers had arisen in Jerusalem (see Acts 8:1-8). And as we historically know persecution of Christians (whether of Jewish or Gentile pedigree would only increase in severity during the early years of the Gospel's proliferation). Nonetheless as is often the case, both then and now, persecution of believers often only helps to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to even more people or it becomes a means by which God furthers His purposes in some way. Now the word translated pilgrims here is also translated such in Heb 11:13 and 1 Peter 2:11 and thus there is some debate (in commentaries) as to whether Peter was writing to Jewish or Gentile believers or a mix of both. Nonetheless given the Spiritual nature of the gospel, and thus its rapid influence and spreading throughout the entire Roman Empire, (indeed all the known world to the apostles; consider Acts 11:28; Col 1:6) it is only highly speculative on the part of commentators when either extreme is taken as fact. For neither the word pilgrims, nor the phrase it is used in, is indicating these believers ethnicity, as if that means anything in Christ (consider Gal 3:26-29). Rather it is indicating that these believers were simply not dwelling in their normal locals or residences; not in places that they would normally call "home". Instead these were believers who were, as the God's people have always been were truly pilgrims and strangers on earth (consider Heb 11:13-14). Who though currently Dispersed amongst the nations, and thus were living amongst various kinds of peoples, in various kinds of places, and very likely in and with all manner of circumstances. Nonetheless they (as we often are) were not just living for today, or living day by day, but were living in anticipation of the day when we will all be with the Lord Jesus Christ in His Kingdom, fully enjoying His Heavenly reign of perfect love and peace. Where our journeys in a fallen world having ended, and with them, never again pain to be endured, or tears of sorrow shed (Rev 21:4). And so Peter encourages them not as permanent residents or citizens of this world living by its designs, desires and values (Rom 12:2). But as (he himself) and all who follow Jesus Christ in discipleship truly are, pilgrims on earth. That is God's chosen (i.e. elect) people, set apart and set upon a journey that has heaven as our finial destiny.

The Dispersion (vs. 1)
Now in regards to the believers actual dispersion, Peter identifies five different locals, all in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) where believers had gone as a part of their Dispersion. And so the Apostle Peter (as well as James, see James 1:1) draw on an analogy from the Old Testament times when by the Sovereign hand of God the Israelites were dispersed abroad (for their disobedience to God), which ironically (by the hand of God) brought about a greater revelation of God's person to nations then ignorant of Him. In this the prophet Daniel was used mightily by God to preach to both the Babylonian then the Persian kings. And so now the apostles likely seeing the same thing occurring from the Dispersion of believers everywhere, that is the proclamation of the gospel everywhere, draw the analogy of what is happening to the disciples of Jesus Christ (yet for their obedience to God) and thus their faithfulness to Jesus Christ, as ultimately for the furtherance of the gospel. And thus these brethren were likewise enduring similar hardships as the Old Testament Israelites did in foreign lands for their faith in God, but also in being separated from their homes and native lands, and more importantly from loved ones, especially beloved ones in the faith, while they were serving God as faithful servants of Jesus Christ in whatever capacities He called them too. As the church was no longer holding all things in common (see Acts 4:32-37) but had at this time been largely scattered abroad. Which in many ways was for the better, not just for the gospels' furtherance as more people became exposed to it. But for all believers in general. For history has proven down through the centuries that whenever believers or segments of believers isolate themselves into their own societies, especially to the exclusion of other believers, they become not only rigid and legalistic, but also cultic and extreme, ultimately conforming themselves to their own ideals rather than to Jesus Christs, and thus they inevitably become far less fruitful and useful for the Lord's purposes here on earth (consider Matt 5:14-16). For we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are called to separation to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel, not isolation from the world and each other. And so, though there are hardships to be endured as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 14:22) living in a fallen world which is under the sway of Satan (1 John 5:19). Nonetheless there is always God's continuing Work, Presence and Power in the world, and in our lives, for the redemption of all who believe the gospel. For it is God who is ultimately working all things together for our Good (Rom 8:28-39). For wherever God's people are as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking to know Him and obey Him, there He is in Presence and Power working in and through us (consider Psalm 139:77-12; Matt 18:20). And so though God allows various kinds of trials and sufferings in our lives (some of which we are the authors of); yet He never leaves us, nor forsakes us to them (Heb 12:2). For there is no place where we may go, or circumstance that we may have to endure, that we should fear that we are not near, nor have access to the Personal Presence of the Living God. Whose Son the Lord Jesus Christ, now being seated at the right hand of God, is ever active in acting as our High Priest and Advocate before Him (Heb 4:14-16; 1 John 2:1). For God is always near, and His ear is always open to the poor in spirit (Ps 34:18; Isaiah 57:15; Matt 5:3) and repentant in heart (Isaiah 66:2; James 4:8-10), regardless of where we are. For God has not fixed Himself to geographic locals, like the Temple in Jerusalem, as the Jews once held (Acts 17:24-25). But He is everywhere, in all places, at all times. And so we as disciples of Jesus Christ being indwelt by His Person by the Holy Spirit are now the Temple of the Lord wherever we are or go. And thus wherever we are we are not only His witnesses (Acts 1:8), but also His fragrance (2 Cor 2:14-16). Yet we are not commanded to be in all places, and in fellowship with all people, at all times. As the N.T. makes clear. For our being sanctified by the Spirit means we are also to sanctify our lives and bodies (consider 1 Cor 5:9-10; 10:18-22; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1; Eph 5:11; Rev 18:4 etc.). Therefore though the gospel is to be effectively and fervently preached and lived out everywhere (Mark 16:20) amongst everyone and in every culture (Matt 28:18-20). Every believer must first examine themselves and their motives before entering into realms where they might endanger their own faith and or bring dishonor to the Name of Jesus Christ. For if in doing so one might endanger one's own faith or living right in the sight of God, then such is not a place where the Lord would have one be! Same with restoring a Christian brother or sister who has fallen into sin, though we are to do this, and in a spirit of gentleness, we are to first consider ourselves beforehand, lest we also be tempted (Gal 6:1-2).

The Locations (vs 1)
Of the five locals Peter mentions: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; Pontus is mentioned first. Pontus was a Province of Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) paralleling the southern shores of the Black Sea, stretching roughly 240 miles east to west, being bound by Armenia on the east with Bithynia on its western border with Mysia next to it. Moving inland were the territories (from east to west) of Cappadocia, Galatia and Asia (see The whole region being largely Greek/Roman in law and culture at the time of the Apostle's, except in segments of the mountainous interior where Persian/Parthian influences still existed. Now the Scripture records that Jews from Pontus were present at Jerusalem during the Pentecost Festival when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles. And so some of these must of heard the Apostles speaking, by the Spirit, in the native languages of the peoples assembled there (Acts 2:9). It may have been that some of these then received the Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle Peters preaching and then took the gospel back to Pontus when they returned. If so the gospel, and thus the church, would've had very early roots there. The beloved Aquila, husband of Priscilla, and dear friend and co-worker of the Apostle Paul was born in this region (Acts 18:2); which confirms what the 1st century Jewish historian Philo records that a Jewish population was already well established there. And so as Jews (indeed all believers) fled the growing persecutions in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria; Pontus (and the related regions) must have been a natural location to try to find refuge and exile.

The Calling (vs 2)
The Phrase the Apostle Peter uses here is a powerful one stating that we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father". To be elect is to be chosen by God, whether an individual or a nation. And in context it is stating the each and every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ was chosen according to God the Fathers foreknowledge of all things, (consider John 15:16, 15:19) and thus it is our standing with God that we all have who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; all by the grace of God (consider Rom 9:11).
(Please see article from Nelsons Bible Dictionary bellow for detailed explanation; also see Matt 22:14; 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 22, 27; Luke 18:7; 23:35; Rom 8:33; 11:5, 7; 16:13; Col 3:12; 1 Thess 1:4; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:4, 6, 9; 2 John 1, 13; Rev 17:14 for all the N.T. contexts where this word translated elect here is used).
Thus we who believe in Jesus as testified to in the Scriptures are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God" (lit. to know before hand, and in some contexts to predetermine, as in Acts 2:23 and related to this 1 Peter 1:20). Thus it is a profoundly gracious move on God's part to chose to save us according to His foreknowledge of all things. Louw-Nida 28.20 gives this as a rendering and understanding of the words translated elect and foreknowledge here in this context of 1 Peter 1:2: ‘to those who have been chosen … according to what God the Father had known beforehand’
Now since God the Father in His Sovereign will has chosen us to be His own, according to His own foreknowledge of all things, He has done so with a special purpose and plan in mind for us who believe in His Son Jesus. Which begins with our being sanctified by His Spirit, so that we might now obey His Son the Lord Jesus as His New Covenant people. That is what the Apostle Peter is stating in the second half of the phrase in verse 2 which states: " sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" which he concludes by saying "Grace to you and peace be multiplied."
Thus there is in verse two both a declaration of what we are in Christ, but also what we are to do. The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus refers not just to our having our sins covered by the blood of Christ, but more specifically to our being sprinkled with Christ's blood by which we both individually and collectively come into a covenant relationship with God (see Exodus 24:3-8 and Heb 12:24). The word translated sprinkling here is also used in Heb 9:13, 19, 21 where the exposition is on the greater and perfect and finial sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and thus His blood being the agent by which God now sprinkles His people and thus sanctifies (i.e. washes) us by the precious blood of His Son.

Therefore Peter will begin in verse three by praising God for all of His abundant mercy, which began with God the Father and His first moving towards us while we were still sinners, fully seperated from Himself (Rom 5:8). For it is only God's deep and abiding love and concern for us all, both as individuals, as well as mankind collectively, struggling under the burden of sin, Satan and death that moved God by way of the cross of Jesus Christ, to not only atone for all our sins but also cleanse us, by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, so that through Jesus' sacrifice for us He could bring us all who believe in Christ into a personal and living and dynamic relationship with Himself, the moment we believe in His Person, and thus bring about our everlasting reconciliation to Himself. Therefore Peter extends what God Himself has already done for us all, and that is grace and peace be multiplied to you, and to all who believe (vs. 2).

Nelsons New Illustrated Bible Dictionary

— a person or group chosen by God for special favor and for the rendering of special service to Him. In the Old Testament the Hebrew people were described as God’s elect. The New Testament speaks of Christ as God’s Chosen One (1 Pet. 2:4, 6) and of the church as God’s new chosen people (Rom. 8:33; 2 John 1, 13). Also see Election.

— the gracious and free act of God by which He calls those who become part of His kingdom and special beneficiaries of His love and blessings. The Bible describes the concept of election in three distinct ways. Election sometimes refers to the choice of Israel and the church as a people for special service and privileges. Election may also refer to the choice of a specific individual to some office or to perform some special service. Still other passages of the Bible refer to the election of individuals to be children of God and heirs of eternal life.
Throughout the history of redemption, election has characterized God’s saving activity. He chose and called Abraham from Ur to Canaan, making an everlasting covenant with him and his offspring (Gen. 11:31–12:7; Neh. 9:7; Is. 41:8). God also called Moses to lead His people out of bondage (Ex. 2:24–3:10; Deut. 6:21–23; Ps. 105). He chose Israel from among the nations of the world to be His special covenant people (Deut. 4:37; 7:6–7; Is. 44:1–2).

Election to salvation takes place "in Christ" (Eph. 1:4; 2:10) as a part of God’s purpose for the human race. As part of His eternal plan, God allows us to use our freedom to rebel against Him. Thus it is gracious of God to save those who find salvation through Jesus Christ. It is not unjust of Him not to save everyone, since no one deserves to be saved (Matt. 20:14; Rom. 1:18; 9:15). Election is gracious; it is also unconditional and unmerited (Acts 13:48; Rom. 9:11; 1 Pet. 1:2). It is an expression of the eternal, sovereign will of God who cannot change (Rom. 8:29; 2 Thess. 2:13). Therefore the salvation of the elect is certain (Rom. 8:28, 33).

Election is a necessary condition for salvation; faith is the sufficient condition. The elect inevitably believe, but they do not believe against their will. They have a God-given desire and ability to trust in Christ for salvation (Acts 13:48; 1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 1:29; 2:13). The elect choose God because He effectively calls them through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ; they choose Him because He first chose and called them to Himself (Rom. 8:28). That initiating love of God is reflected in Jesus’ statement, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16).

A careful study of the Bible’s doctrine of man cures any romantic notion of a human will that is free to choose for or against God. Those who are slaves to sin and its power (Rom. 6:6) neither understand nor seek after God in and of themselves (Rom. 3:11; John 14:17; 1 Cor. 2:14). Outside of Christ, people are spiritually dead rebels who neither desire to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ nor are able to. Apart from God’s gracious, free, eternal, and sovereign choice of sinners to become His children, none would be saved but would remain forever under His wrath (Rom. 1:18).

Election is not to be a source of complacency (2 Pet. 1:12) or presumption (Rom. 11:19–22) on the part of Christians. They are to make their calling and election certain by growing in godliness (2 Pet. 1:2–11) as they respond with gratitude to God’s electing love (Col. 3:12–17).

God has chosen Christians to bear the image and glory of Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Thess. 2:14). They have been elected to be holy in conduct, like Christ (Eph. 1:4). Like Him, they are also to be glorified in their whole being in the life to come (2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). The ultimate goal of our election is that we might bring praise and glory to God (Eph. 1:6; Rom. 11:33; 2 Thess. 2:13).

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

Additional Resources
Nelsons New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Logos Library Systems)
Louw-Nida 28.20 volume 1 page 336
Teachers Bible Commentary 1 Peter 1:1-2


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