Part 1 / 1:1-2
I don’t know if you’ve ever received a letter at just the right time to bring much needed comfort and clarity, but I know I have, and I know others who have.
Ben and Jana Askins come immediately to mind.
Ben was falsely charged with murder after serving as the medical overseer for a wilderness camp ministry aimed at helping substance abusing and at risk youth – in Colorado.
One of the boys in the program died while Ben was in leadership.
I can only imagine – what a harrowing place that was to be in.
Then, after several agonizing months, he and Jana received the news that the charges – which should never have been filed – had been dropped.
Again, one can only imagine the kind of relief they experienced in that moment.
Peter’s 1st audience for this letter no doubt felt extreme relief at its contents too. And that forms part of how we have to read and interpret 1st Peter if we are to get what WE need out of it.
To do that, I want us to spend our time this morning considering 2 major ideas that arise in the letter – which will help our study all the way through…
2 Major ideas, and then 4 key concepts for Believers contained in these 1st 2 verses.
It is evident from the first 2 verses of our text – Peter is writing to people in some sort of distress.
He addresses them in vs. 1 as “elect exiles.”
[SLIDE] i.e. God’s People – ELECT – but a People not home – EXILES.
I won’t spend time this morning on the fullness of what Peter means when he refers to Christians here as “ELECT”.
God willing, I’ll focus on that specific concept, the DOCTRINE OF ELECTION next time.
Suffice it to say, that when he refers to his readers as ELECT, he is using it as a synonym for BELIEVER, or a true CHRISTIAN – in the Biblical sense of having been born again by the Spirit of God.
i.e. Those trusting in the death of Jesus on the Cross as Him substituting for them in the death they deserved, so that they might have the blessings He deserved.
This after all is what saving faith is.
It is not the mere knowledge that Jesus is God…
That there is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit…
That the Gospel is the good news of Jesus dying in the place of sinners…
Even that one must have faith in Christ and His atoning work
That much, James tells us – the Demons know. And they tremble at it.
[SLIDE] James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
True saving faith goes beyond the mere knowledge of true and correct doctrine, and actually TRUSTS in the death of Jesus on one’s behalf.
We must rest all of our hope of salvation on His person and work – especially His atoning work at Calvary.
True Christians have abandoned all other hope of being acceptable to God through religion, self-effort or anything else – and have cast themselves upon His mercy.
[SLIDE] Romans 4:5 “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness”
[SLIDE] 1st FRAMING THOUGHT. ELECT/EXILE
The question that immediately arises is – whether or not Peter’s use of that word EXILE is meant to be figurative, or literal.
It wouldn’t be an unreasonable conclusion that he is speaking figuratively.
Think of a passage like Hebrews 11.
There, the Writer cites Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah and notes: [SLIDE] HEBREWS 11:13–16 “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. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Indeed, ever since the Fall in Genesis 3, the Biblical picture of all humanity is that as a race we have been exiled from the Garden – banished from the manifest Presence of God due to our rebellion.
And in salvation, while our relationship to God the Father in mended through the substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross – for all who believe –
And even tho His Spirit has been sent to indwell all Believers –
We STILL await a day when there will be a face-to-face reunion.
A day when we will be one with Him permanently in the every way possible.
This is the hope of everyone who has been born again by the Spirit of Christ through the Gospel.
[SLIDE] AS VSS. 3-5 tell us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
We’ll explore those verses more thoroughly in time.
So a figurative use of exile is certainly legitimate for Christians in every age – especially useful for understanding that ache for “home” we all share.
It is meant to be part of our self-identity.
We can read and study both letters of Peter with abundant profit if we only see them through that lens.
But I want to suggest to you that Peter is being far more literal here than is sometimes understood.
And it is why His letter is so very useful for us in North America today.
Thanks to modern scholarship, discoveries about the part of the World Peter says He is writing to, opens up some very interesting facts.
- We know for instance the Peter was martyred in Rome sometime in the mid-60’s in the reign of Emperor Nero – so these letters had to be written before then.
- Peter writes to people scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.
[SLIDE] An area of Northern Turkey spanning 129,000 sq. miles.
For comparison’s sake, California is about 159,000 sq. miles.
This portion of Asia was far less Hellenized than the southern portion where Paul had such missionary success.
These were tribal territories, with religions and cultures totally foreign to those who might have been raised in Roman occupied Israel, or other parts of the Roman Empire.
[SLIDE] Karen Jobes in her exceptional commentary writes: “The picture that emerges of the regions to which Peter wrote is one of a vast geographical area with small cities few and far between, of a diversified population of indigenous peoples, Greek settlers, and Roman colonists. The residents practiced many religions, spoke several languages, and were never fully assimilated into the Greco-Roman culture (Frank 1932: 374; S. Johnson 1975: 143; Yakar 2000: 61–65)”
It was the habit of Roman Emperors to bring their culture to areas by means of colonization.
Transplanting Romanized people into these new regions.
Typically about 300 colonists were sent.
Often they were the poor, disenfranchised, freed slaves or undesirables due to ethnicity, etc.
This has particular bearing on the probable audience for Peter’s letter.
We know from historical sources that the Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54) did 2 pertinent things:
- [SLIDE] He established cities AND colonies in all 5 of the regions Peter mentions in vs. 1
- Claudius tolerated the Jews as long as they avoided 3 things:
[SLIDE] – They were not to disturb the peace by things like public preaching
[SLIDE] – They were not to oppose the accepted morals of the culture
[SLIDE] – They were not to try and convert anyone
Christians – who at that time were considered a Jewish sect by the Emperor – violated all 3.
And in the early 40’s we know that Claudius attempted to expel the Jews from Rome as troublemakers who did not assimilate well.
[SLIDE] This is probably mentioned in ACTS 18:1–2 “After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,”
The most likely scenario, is that Peter was writing to these displaced, mainly Jewish Christians – who were banished to these wild and sparsely populated areas, specifically because they violated the social construct of the day, which required them to:
Keep their religion private,
Accept the morals of the moment
Leave other religious views alone.
Essentially their great crime was – they were politically incorrect.
The Jews in not assimilating and the Christians even worse.
And as Christians, they could not help being so.
How amazingly on point this is for Believers in the United States at this moment in history.
Their situation was much like we are in right now with the current moral revolution.
[SLIDE] British Theologian Theo Hobson says that a moral revolution requires 3 conditions to be considered a true “revolution”
- That which was once condemned is now celebrated.
- That which was once celebrated is now condemned.
- Those who will not join the celebration are condemned.
It is why this letter is vastly important to US right NOW.
[SLIDE] 2nd FRAMING THOUGHT. TRUE GRACE
[SLIDE] 1 Peter 5:12 “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.”
i.e. This is what genuine Christianity is supposed to look like when lived out in hostile social environment.
This is a manual for our day and time and cultural context.
What to do and what not to do given a wide set of circumstances and for Believers in all sorts of rolls.
[SLIDE] 4 KEY CONCEPTS IN THE TEXT:
Being God’s own, favored People, is not contrary to facing hardship, confusion, complexity, persecution, marginalization or other griefs because our circumstances are:
[SLIDE] A. “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father”
Christians are this combination of both elect, and exiles.
This dual identity is essential to retaining faith and hope when life around us falls apart.
Being exiles does not mean we are not elect, and being elect does exempt us from being exiles.
Neither cancels out the other.
These are not only compatible, but complimentary while we wait for the fullness of the kingdom to arrive.
Both of these are comprehended in the foreknowledge God – and not surprises He needs react to as though accidents outside of His control.
Our “exile” is as much the stuff of His divine administration as is our election and sanctification.
They cannot be unwound from one another.
[SLIDE] B. “In the sanctification of the Spirit”
Taking all these things together then – we are to view our trials and tribulations as designed to be part of the Spirit’s work in sanctifying us.
In bringing us increasingly to bear the image of Christ’s character in all of life.
Trials are not contrary to that work – but God intends and uses those very trials to that end.
Does Satan play into this in any way?
But what the Devil means for evil, God means for our good.
God overrides the evil and redeems it for our good.
[SLIDE] C. “For obedience to Jesus Christ”
Our election and sanctification are not things done in a vacuum, or unattached to anything else.
There is a purpose behind them.
Here, the stated purpose is for “obedience to Jesus Christ.” Obedience – not to the Law, not to an external code, but to Christ Himself.
A personal obedience.
An obedience born of love rather than mere duty.
He does not call us to a bare obedience, but an obedience which is within the context of salvation.
We obey Christ BECAUSE we are already saved, NOT to GET saved.
One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
There it is the obedience of the bit and bridle, and here it is the obedience which issues from a heart transformed by grace and pursuing holiness out of a new nature, which desires it as naturally as God Himself does.
And it is THIS which He is after in us.
[SLIDE] D. “And for sprinkling with His blood”
While that phrase may seem odd to us, to Jewish Believers in the 1st century, it conjured up lots of images from the OT.
The sprinkling with blood is clearly an OT reference.
Blood was sprinkled in several contexts.
- Lev. 14:7 – When lepers were cleansed.
- Ex. 24:8 – When the Mosaic covenant was inaugurated. People, Altar, Tabernacle were all sprinkled.
- Lev. 4:5-6 – When something was to be purified from sin.
- Ex. 29:21 – When someone or something was to be consecrated or separated for service unto God.
[SLIDE] Therefore Peter concludes: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
The idea is this: As you explore the grace of God in your salvation in deeper and deeper ways, so, may the peace you experience from that exploration increase accordingly.
In fact, it is the natural consequence of such exploration.
[SLIDE] Need more peace?
Understand the grace of God toward you and what it means more and more.
[SLIDE] SUMMARY: God, within His sovereign rights choses for Himself those upon whom He will bestow eternal life in Jesus.
Those on whom the Spirit of God will move to separate from the world unto Himself, and begin the work of conforming them to the image of Christ.
Those who would be given over to Christ Jesus as their Lord, in direct contradiction to the rebellion which began in humankind in the Garden.
Those, who sprinkled with the Blood of Christ – are by that blood cleansed from their sin,
made partakers of His New Covenant,
and set apart from all creation in consecration to Him and for Him.
Being those people – face your trials knowing that they are ordained by God, and so are to be capitalized on by you – to those ends.
This, Peter writes to comfort his brothers and sisters in Christ – who have been involuntarily submerged into a hostile culture – completely removed from anything they have ever known before.
This, The Holy Spirit wrote and preserved for us – who are now in the midst of a culture which functions on values completely hostile to Biblical ones – and which will marginalize Biblical Christians more and more in the coming days.
[SLIDE] In the very midst of this – we can have GRACE and PEACE not only not DIMINISHED – but MULTIPLIED to us! Because of Christ.
 Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 22.