He has given us…
Peter was a fisherman, named Simon, before Jesus found him, called him to be a missionary and renamed him The Rock (sorry Dwayne). Like the rest of the Apostles, Peter had to come to know who Jesus really was and to take ownership of the job that Jesus had given him to do (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Peter was a pillar in the early Christian community (Galatians 2:9 (Cephas means Peter in Aramaic)) and among the apostolic writers who, by the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21) spread the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world. As we read the opening of Peter’s letter to the Christian community scattered abroad, let’s see how carefully God has been planning over thousands of years for you and I to enjoy his grace.
- 1-2 Greetings to a scattered people
- 3-5 Praise God for the future he has made
- 6-9 Rejoicing through present trials
- 10-12 Wonder at the work of the Holy Spirit in the past
1-2 Greetings to a scattered people
“Apostle of Jesus Christ” This phrase means that Peter is a ‘sent one’ of Jesus Christ. The word, apostle, has general meanings ranging from ‘sent one’ to ‘commissioned’ and even to ‘fleet’ or ‘admiral’. It is used throughout the New Testament (over 80 times) to refer to a) the 11 commissioned men at Pentecost specifically as well as b) a broader use for anyone who is commissioned by a church to preach the gospel. Peter introduces himself to the churches who read this letter as someone commissioned as a preacher of Jesus Christ.
“To God’s elect…” The letter is addressed to those who Peter calls ‘God’s elect’. We see in the next two phrases that the letter’s readers do not share a geographical location but a choosing by God. See notes below on the various attributes of God’s elect outlined in verse 2.
“Exiles scattered…” If you are exiled, you are a stranger to the place you are living in. The Old Testament contains a large section of writings during the time of The Exile. Peter writes during a time of Christian persecution and uses the same idea of God’s people united even though they are scattered. They are related to one another because of their relationship with God. He is likely referring to Christians being not at home in this world anywhere (Hebrews 11:13). They are sojourners in this world – living temporarily.
“Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” These are towns of Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. Bordered by the Black Sea in the north, the Aegean sea to the West and the Mediterranean Sea in the South. This letter is designed to be read in several churches. There are no specific names listed in this letter and the multiple towns help us feel included in this letter as God’s elect and strangers scattered in this world.
“Who have been chosen” This relates back to the title of God’s elect. The reader’s relationship with God is the important element of this letter and this relationship starts with God. The rest of the sentence gives three or four elements to this election. They relate to the three persons of the Trinity. One cute observation is that the first council of Nicea where the doctrine of the trinity is put to paper was held in Nicea of Bithynia – one town that Peter writes to.
“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” Exactly how God’s foreknowledge works is open to debate but Peter is clearly saying that God knew beforehand who would be saved and who would respond to this letter as the elect. The Greek word for ‘foreknowledge’ is prognosis. It has been God’s initiative operating in the reader’s lives even before they were aware of it. 1 Peter 1:20 uses the same word to talk about Christ’s death as foreknown. We are chosen by God because he has foreknown us and decided to call us even before we were aware of his decision. Note also that we are able to call God Father!
“Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit” How we came to respond to the calling of God is through the efforts of the Holy Spirit. This work is to set us apart and make us holy. The work of the Spirit occurs with direct connection to our spirit (Romans 8:14-16) and through the preaching and reading of the word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
“To be obedient to Jesus Christ” Thirdly, we are chosen by God to be obedient to Jesus Christ. He is the first and the last. He is the Lord of all. We cannot be in relationship with God apart from him (John 14:6). There is no other way under heaven and earth by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). And so, any effort by mankind to be better and good enough for God apart from being obedient to Jesus Christ is foolish and damning. Nice people will go to hell unless they bow their knee to Jesus.
“And sprinkled with his blood”. Fortunately, it is not our efforts to follow Jesus which justifies us but it is the sprinkling with his blood. The important word in this sentence is ‘his’. Leviticus has taught us that it is the sprinkling of blood by an offering without defect that will bring atonement. And here we see that it is by Jesus’ blood that we are saved.
So, before we knew anything, God has chosen who will be children (calling him Father) and he has called them through the work of the Spirit and the redemptive work of Jesus who is our Lord.
3-5 Praise God for the future he has made
“Praise be to God” This next section (verses 3-5) outline reasons for us to praise God and focus our hearts and minds on the future mapped out for his elect.
“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” Again on the doctrine of the Trinity: Jesus is the son of the Father. Check out the Start Living course if you don’t know the importance of this!
“He has given us…” For no other reason than his mercy, look at what he has given us…
“New birth” The concept of being born again (John 3) is very Christian and an analogy to explain why we feel like strangers in this world and why Christians prefer to talk about their testimony rather than their religion. Peter describes this more in 1:23. Our new birth is not reincarnation where we re-enter the world as flesh again. But it is an imperishable existence. This is our birth to eternal life and it comes through our knowledge of God through his word and promises.
“Into a living hope” We do not have a dead hope, a futile hope, or without hope (Eph 2:12; 1 Thess 4:13). As we look to our future, we see life as much as our Saviour is alive since it is through his resurrection from the dead that we have this living hope.
“Into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” We do not mark our inheritance by land on this earth because that will pass away, but our inheritance is unspoiled and eternal. Peter goes on in verse 24 to describe people and all that we boast in as like grass that is here one minute and then gone – but the word of God, the promises of God, the living hope that we have endures forever!
“Kept in heaven for you.” Not only is our salvation by God’s foreknowledge, but our inheritance is kept secure by him. We lay in the sandwich of God’s promises.
“Who through faith are shielded…until the coming of salvation” We finally see something of our responsibility and it is faith or belief with trust. The coming salvation does not refer to a future when we will be saved, that is already described and we trust this to be so, but there will come a day when what we believe by faith will be seen without a doubt. It’s the difference between the promise of having something and the reality of seeing it in your possession.
So, we praise God for putting in our care his promises to keep us and protect us until our salvation is matured. This world will pass away but our hope is not in this world. Our living Saviour has given us a living hope.
6-9 Rejoicing through present trials
Next we look at rejoicing now even when we experience trials. It is not the present trials that will give us joy, but all that has been made clear in verses 3-5! We don’t focus on the bad weather now, but rejoice in the promise of sunshine in the morning.
“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith…may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” There is genuine faith and there is ingenuine or temporal faith. The faith that stands the trials of this world will receive praise and glory when this world is done away with. God knows that those who are his elect will not fail the test. Genesis 22 illustrates God’s great test upon Abraham to see if his faith is genuine. The book of Job illustrates God’s confidence in Job to withstand the torments of Satan because God was sure of his faith. Trials and temptations will prove our faith to be true or false. Keep in mind that our faith is focuses on all that God has and is and will do for us through Christ. It requires knowledge, reflection and conviction of what is real and lasting. Also keep in mind that failing in our walk is not the same as falling away.
“Of greater worth than gold” Now this is gold! Our faith is more important than any material thing you can imagine. Our faith is worth more than gold, or any temporal form of security. Even gold will perish.
“Though you have not seen him…and…do not see him now.” Our faith is not based on seeing Jesus with our own eyes, but on our growing understanding of who he is and what he has done and our living relationship with Jesus through his word. Jesus left this earth soon after his resurrection. He left the message of the kingdom of God in the hands of the apostles and knew that the future of the church would not depend on people seeing Jesus physically, but on people seeing him spiritually and knowing him deeply through the testimony of the apostles. And even Peter writes to believers who have never seen Jesus.
“You love him…you believe in him…you are filled with and inexpressible and glorious joy…” These are marks of genuine faith. Not only will our faith withstand the trials of this world but we will increase our love and faith in Jesus as our hearts increase with the joy and peace in believing.
“For you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Again, our focus is not on the here and now but on what God is doing in us for the future. Ephesians 2:8-10 describes our salvation for the purpose of God completing the work that he began in us. The question we and the world we live in really needs to start asking again is: how can we be saved! What will become of my soul after this life? The Christian knows the answer. Peter has been describing it for 5 verses now.
So, our joy is not in the immediate circumstances of life but in our hope grounded in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Where do we seek joy? Common answers to this might include holidays, weekends relaxing or with friends or on adventures, evenings by the TV, successfully completing a project or a goal. But all of these things will perish and fade. What is more valuable and provides full joy that lasts forever (Psalm 16:11) is our knowledge of God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.
10-12 Wonder at the work of the Holy Spirit in the past
What do we know about this salvation? Where did the idea of Jesus’ sacrifice come from? How ancient is our faith? How can we know that what the apostles talked about can really be something that outlasts time? Peter turns to talk about this salvation and describes what the prophets of the Old Testament hoped for.
“The prophets…spoke of the grace that was to come to you…” The prophets wrote and spoke about what God had revealed to them by the Spirit. And, Peter explains, they knew that they were talking about something that they would not see in their lifetime. They didn’t write simply to the readers that were alive in their time but more profoundly, they knew that they were writing about things that would be fulfilled after they were dead. Verse 12, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have been told you.”
“Searched intently and with the greatest of care…” These verses don’t need much fleshing out but it is amazing how Peter describes the prophets as serious seekers of God rather than just puppets who said whatever they were told. They knew what was being revealed to them and looked intently into the mystery of the gospel which would one day be made clear to all who would listen. The New Testament is mostly made up of teaching on how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ completes the messages of the Old Testament. We learn in this section how the Old Testament is indeed written for us. The whole bible is for our edification.
“That have now been told you.” Now we live in the age of people telling us about Jesus and what it means to be saved. But deeper knowledge of the gospel comes through our serious investigation into the word of God just as the prophets did. How foolish are people when they only know the bible so shallowly or not at all! When it comes to salvation of the soul, laziness and she’ll be right will not do. But growing in our amazement and joy of all that God has done for us and all that he has promised in us – this is where genuine faith will be found.
“Even the angels long to look into these things.” The least we can say about this is that even the angels see that we are blessed to know the gospel now. Luke 15:10 describes angels rejoicing over the repentance of one sinner – interested and observing salvation. Rather than feeling like an alien, stranger and exile in the world with no status or privilege to boast about, those chosen by God are in a position which even the angels above admire.
Of all the times to be alive in human history, it is a supreme privilege to be alive in the period of history following the coming of Christ, when the gospel is clearly preached. (K.H. Jobes, from his commentary on 1 Peter)
God is worthy of our praise and worship because, in the past, he knew us and chose us and called us to be his. And he has given us knowledge of the gospel, through the Spirit and by the blood of Christ, we can call God Father as he is Jesus’ Father. The prophets of old knew there was something greater coming and we now live in the age where the gospel is freely preached. We may be living as strangers in this world but we are not to be pitied. Those who do not look into the salvation of their souls with serious endeavour are to be pitied. Our inheritance was pre-purchased and is kept safe for us. The suffering we endure today will be nothing compared to the glory that we will see and receive when this world has passed away!
- What would you say to a person commenting that Christians are just naive and brain-washed, wasting their life following a foolish faith?
- See if you can memorise verses 3 and 4!
- It is the greatest trial of any Christian to take our eyes off the things of this world and to keep them fixed on Jesus, the source of our living hope. “You love him…you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” Discuss ways you can keep working on the important things in life – our faith which is worth more than gold.
Prayer of the Week
Our Father in heaven, we give you thanks and praise that you have called us and given us an eternal hope that will never perish or spoil or fade. We pray that our lives will reflect the joy you give us in knowing you and putting our hope and trust in you. Deliver us from empty desires which promise nothing but protect our souls forever. Amen.