OPENING SALUTATIONS

1 PETER 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure. (1 Peter 1:1-2).

The writers of the Bible use a number of different literary forms to communicate their message. There is historical prose, drama, biography, poetry, proverb and prophecy. But one of the most distinct forms in the New Testament is the epistle.

The epistles of the New Testament are personal letters written both to individuals and to churches. I can think of no other literary device more designed to communicate on a personal level. It is the form of intimate relationship.

Whenever the mail is delivered to our house, I go through it very briefly to sort out what to open and what to discard. I look for what we commonly refer to as "junk" mail. These are not personal letters but actually mass mailings designed to appear personal. It will be addressed to me, so the only way I can tell that it is junk mail is to check the return address. When people wrote letters in the ancient world, they always followed a specified format.

Any number of examples of this format can be found both in the pages of the Bible as well as in ancient letters brought to us via archaeology.

Ezra 7:12

Julius Caesar

Name of the Author

Artaxerxes, king of kings...

Gaius Julius Caesar Imperator and high priest and dictator the second time...

Name of the Recipients

To Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven...

To the magistrates, senate, and people of Sidon...

Greeting

Perfect peace

Greeting

As you can see from these examples, it was customary for the writer to include any official titles that he might possess. Peter does the same thing. He calls himself an APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST (1:1).

Our word "apostle" is a transliteration of the Greek word apostolos. The Hebrew counterpart of this word was the sheliach. A well-known Hebrew proverb states: "The authority of the send one (sheliach) is equal to that of the sender." Thus authority is inherent in the term "apostle" from both its Greek and Hebrew backgrounds.

While the word "apostle" comes from the root verb "to send from" it seems to have a more specific meaning. Indeed, the Greeks of the Peloponnesian Wars used this as a military term for the admiral of their fleet who was "commissioned" with a special duty. When used in this sense, it seems to speak of one who is sent out with special AUTHORITY.

The word is used nearly 80 times in the New Testament and almost always carries with it this idea of spiritual authority. Just as a naval commander was sent out with the authority to direct his ships, so the apostles of Jesus were sent out with authority to direct the churches. It is on this basis that Peter had the authority to dictate directives to the churches to whom he writes.

Who are the recipients of this epistle? Peter describes the recipients of his epistle under three different headings:

  1. Peter addresses himself to to those who reside as aliens (1:1). This is a term used to describe the Diaspora -- those Jews who had been scattered abroad and who had settled down and made their homes throughout the various nations of the world. Indeed when he describes them as "scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," the specific word that he uses is diasporas.
  2. Peter addresses his letter to Jews who live in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). In 1 Peter 2:11-12 he will again describe them as "aliens and strangers" and tell them to keep their behavior excellent among the Gentiles.

  3. More specifically, Peter writes to the Jews living in this area who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1:1-2). The fact that they are chosen by God was not a new concept to the Jews. All the way back to the time of the beginning of the nation of Israel, God assured them that He had chosen them to be His own people.
  4. For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6).

    When we come to chapter 2 of this epistle, we will hear Peter echo these same words as he specifically describes these Jewish Christians. There is a wonderful truth here. It is that God still has his chosen people. It is made up of both Jewish Christians as well as Gentile Christians. That is why Paul can address Gentile believers and say to them what Peter is saying here to Jewish believers.

    ...remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:12-14).

    If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have become one of Godís chosen people. But there is a problem. Even though they have been chosen by God, these Jewish believers are going through some hard times. Persecution against the followers of Christ has arisen in many of the cities of the Empire. Perhaps some of these believers are beginning to wonder if something has gone wrong with Godís plan.

    That is why Peter reminds them that they are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. The point is that God knows what He is doing. He is still in control. He has not lost sight of His plans and purposes. He knew that Israel would be scattered. He knew that Jesus would be rejected. He knew that there would be a believing remnant. And He knew that persecutions would come. These things are not a sign that something has gone wrong with the plan of God. Rather they have all taken place in accordance with the plan and purpose of God.

    This is an important lesson for you to learn. Have you ever come to the place in your life where everything looks like it is falling apart? Do the things that God has promised to those who love Him seem to be lost in a maze of meaningless circumstances? Have your goals and expectations for the future faded and died?

    Take heart! Godís plan has not failed. It is still proceeding in accordance with His eternal and unchangeable foreknowledge.

  5. Peter addresses himself to those who have been chosen by the sanctifying work of the Spirit (1:2).

The word "sanctify" means "to set apart something for a particular purpose." This "setting apart" can refer to a spiritual matter or it can refer to something in the everyday sense.

For example. We have a small measuring cup in our kitchen cabinet that is set apart from all of the other glasses and cups in that cabinet. It is used only for measuring. Even though it sits on the same shelf with other cups, it is set apart as to its PURPOSE.

Believers are chosen by God and set apart for a special purpose. In this way, they are set apart from the rest of the world. This sanctification takes place in three distinct phases:

Positional Sanctification

Progressive Sanctification

Ultimate Sanctification

Past tense

Present tense

Future tense

We were set apart to God when we came to Christ

We continue to be holy as we follow the Lord

We shall one day be completely set apart to God

When we were saved by believing the gospel and entrusting ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, we were declared to be separate and distinct from the world as we were brought into the body of Christ.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The believers at Corinth had a great problem with carnality within the church. Arguments, divisions, immoralities, drunkenness and disorderliness were rampant among believers. In spite of all this, Paul says at the outset that these Corinthians had been sanctified. They had been set apart for Godís purposes.

Notice that Paul does not say that they were sanctifying themselves. It says that they had been sanctified. They were the passive receivers of this sanctification. It is something that had been done to them and for them in the past. It was a completed action. Once they had been involved in a life of sin, but then a time came when God set them apart for His own use.

Although you are initially set apart by God when you become a believer. This is not the end of your Christian experience, but only the beginning. Once you have been born again, you begin to grow as a child of God. Various aspects of your life begin to change as you grow and develop. A family resemblance begins to emerge in your life as you become more and more like Jesus Christ. This involves a daily separation from sin and its entanglements.

Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21).

This process of spiritual growth is a gradual one. It takes many years for a spiritual infant to grow into a mature believer. It has been said that when God wants to grow a squash He takes only six months, but when He sets out to raise an oak tree He takes 20 years.

Such growth is often erratic. Growth is like that. We watch our children go through growth spurts while at other times they hardly seem to grow at all. This is normal, for there needs to be times when growth is postponed so that the muscles can harden and adjust to their new orientation.

There will be times when you are learning enormous amounts of Godís Word. Then it will slow down and even stop for a time. This is so you can get these things from your head down into your life where they can be worked on as a part of your being. It is so that theoretical knowledge can be turned into practical experience.

Do you ever reach a point in your spiritual life where your sanctification is complete -- where you are absolutely and completely removed from sin? Yes. Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi, speaks of the final goal of the work of God in His peopleís lives.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6).

Take heart! The process of sanctification that God is working in you will one day be completed. This completion will be realized in the day of Christ Jesus, that is, the day in which Christ returns.

We have already seen that you were chosen by God to be a believer. But you should also note that there is a GOAL to your calling. You were called to do something and to have something done to you.

  1. You were called that you may obey Jesus Christ (1:2).
  2. Literally, Peter says that you were called into (eis) the obedience of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us the perfect example of obedience. He was obedient to the will of the Father to the point of going to the cross and dying for the sins of men. The heart of obedience is seen in His prayer in Gethsemane: "Not my will but as Thou wilt."

  3. You were called that you might be sprinkled with His blood (1:2).

This would bring all sorts of visions to the Jewish readers. Under the Mosaic sacrificial system, blood was regularly sprinkled in the Temple to cleanse the sins of the people. Each time the blood was sprinkled, it indicated that an innocent animal had been killed as a substitute for sinful men. The culmination of these sacrificial rituals would take place on Yom Kippur when the priest would come out of the temple and sprinkle blood on their people who had gathered to worship.

It is in such a light that Jesus is called the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He was the perfect sacrifice and He accomplished what the death of thousands of animals had failed to do -- He satisfied the judgment of God that was directed toward the sins of men. His blood is applied to you when you believe in Him as your Lord and as your Savior.

The book of Exodus tells the story of the Passover, how God had warned Moses that He was going to kill every firstborn in the land of Egypt, whether man or animal, Egyptian or Israelite. The only way of escape was for a lamb to be killed as a substitute and its blood smeared upon the doorposts outside the house.

By the same token, we were once under sentence of death. We were promised of a coming judgment. It was our due reward for our sins. But God provided an alternative by sending His Son to die in our place. His blood was shed instead of ours. He died in our place so that we could live in His place. There is an open invitation today to partake of this gift.

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).