Elect Exiles of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1-12)
Do you remember times in your life in which you were “chosen?” It may have been when two captains were choosing up teams and you felt honored to have been chosen. It may have been later in life when you applied for a job among many others, and you were chosen. Or, possibly the best of all, when you looked for that person with whom you would spend your life, and you saw that one individual that you dreamed might be the one – and then the day came – and he or she chose you. Being chosen is special.
When God talks about choosing us, there are a couple of things that are very unique about it. First, he chose us though we had not chosen Him. We had turned away from Him and put ourselves in a terrible mess; do you remember? Further, in the Roman and Galatian letters Paul pictures our choosing as an adoption. That picture also gives us a sense of great love. Adopted children have been chosen. My parents didn’t choose me; they just had to deal with whatever God gave them. It is indeed great love when a couple chooses a child.
God chose us – but not recently and not when we were baptized into Christ. That is not to say that He chose one individual over another; God desires that all be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). He chose us “according to His foreknowledge.” The essential point is that we are not Christians simply based on our decision, but based on the initiative of God. He has operated on our lives long before we were aware of it. His redemptive plan, including the sacrifice of His Son, was originated before He created the world or before He created us.
Foreknowledge of God…Sanctification of the Spirit…For obedience to Jesus
You will notice that our election relates to all three members of the Godhead. The order listed seems to be significant – beginning with the Father’s foreknowledge and plan, followed by the Spirit revealing and giving life to the plan in setting us apart from sin, and concluding with the end goal of our obedience to Jesus so that we can be sprinkled with His blood and cleansed.
Consider carefully this phrase: God called us “for obedience to Jesus Christ.” I am amazed at those who think God has called them, but who reject, or at the very least minimize His call for obedience to Jesus. Don’t minimize it; don’t compromise it. The “choosing” is for obedience and we need to take it seriously.
The “choosing” is for one other thing: “for sprinkling with His blood.” This phrase was greatly significant to these Jewish Christians. The picture comes from Exodus 24:3-8 (see also Ezek. 36:24-28). Imagine being in that multitude as Moses splattered blood on the people. Imagine the blood spray hitting your face and clothes. The life of that animal drained out of its body and showered onto you has now sealed a covenant you have made with God. Transfer that scene to the present. You have not been sprinkled with the blood of an animal; you have been sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb of God.
Therefore, Peter begins his letter reminding these Jewish Christians that though they have been rejected from their homeland and rejected from their own nation, they are chosen by God into a covenant that has been sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Blessed be God is a natural response to these wonderful truths. “Blessed” (from which we get the word eulogy), means to praise, to honor, to speak well of. It is important to understand that verses 3-12 are intended to prepare the readers psychologically for the message that follows. Peter attempts to create a picture of the condition of these elect sojourners in the best possible light. They may be looking at their physical condition and not be impressed, but when they look at it from the eternal view, it could not be any better. This is one sentence in the Greek, which perfectly prepares them for the exhortation beginning in verse 13 with the word “therefore.”
Briefly notice how Peter prepared these brethren for his exhortation:
- According to his great mercy God had given them a new birth and a living hope awaiting them in heaven, which he had reserved for them as an inheritance that cannot be destroyed or taken away.
- God was also guarding them by his power, coupled with their faith, for the salvation that will be revealed in the last time.
- Further, in spite of their difficult circumstances and the various trials that had grieved them, they could rejoice because their faith was coming out of these trials more valuable and precious than pure gold refined by fire, and would result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus appears.
- In fact, even though they had not seen the Lord and even though they did not now see him, they were able to rejoice with an inexpressible joy because in these trials they were obtaining the outcome of their faith, the salvation of their souls.
- And even more wonderful, this salvation is so great even the prophets of old searched and inquired diligently to discover the meaning of prophecies God spoke through them concerning the coming Messiah. These were things that even the angels desired to know. And now they, exiled dispersed Jews, had received the end result of God’s great covenantal promises.
Living Messages for Today
Do you know what a “do-over” is? Sometimes when we play friendly games and one of us does not get it right, we will call for a “do-over.” In other words, “I didn’t do that very well, so let me do it again.” Have you ever transferred the do-over principle to life? There have been times in which I have thought, “I’d like to do that again and get it right this time.” No such thing, is there? Not exactly, but the Lord has given us a new birth into a new life. In a game, for a competitor to give you a do-over is a very nice gesture. But in life, for God to give us a new birth so that we can start over, is nothing short of “great mercy” (1:3).
Peter also emphasizes that our rebirth is to a “living” hope (1:3). The Greco-Roman world did not have a hope of an afterlife. Catullus writes that “though the sun can set and rise again, once our brief light sets, there is but on unending night to be slept through.” Paul spoke about the world that sorrows at the death of a loved one and has no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). But our hope is living, based on the historical event of the “resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Notice that Peter places great emphasis on the character of our inheritance in heaven – imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1:4). Remember that the Jews of the “diaspora” knew well the final end of the first “Promised Land.” Their forefathers were taken from that land because of their sins. The glory of a land flowing with milk and honey perished. The pagans overran the land and defiled it. Through the conquering of the Greeks and Romans, the hope of ever possessing it again had faded away. Shortly after the writing of the letter, all the fortified cities of Israel were leveled, never to rise in prominence again. But the inheritance of the Lord is reserved, kept in heaven, and therefore not affected by the events of this world.
Have you ever wondered if you are going to make it to heaven? Have there been times of doubt? I’m sure all of us have at one time or another wondered if we were going to make it. Peter helps answer the question both in the beginning and ending of the letter (5:10). He stresses that God is going to get us there. We live by faith, and through that we are guarded by God’s power (1:5).
The moment a person is baptized into Christ is a great moment. But it really doesn’t mean much until their faith is tested. When I baptize someone I always wonder what I have here. As Paul said, is this person “wood, hay, or stubble?” Or, is this person gold? I simply never know until there is a test. The test will prove him, and he will either endure and get better, or it will burn him up and he will fall. Thus Peter’s words that their trials were so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
We conclude with this. Jesus said that of all the prophets, there was none greater (in mission) than John the Baptist. But the one who is in the kingdom is greater (in mission) than he. It is hard to appreciate the great plan of God before time began – and now we are its recipients. These exiles had been disheartened by the loss of their homes and living in an area where they were separated from the people and things they loved. If we are living as true disciples, we also are keenly aware that we are not of this world. We also are strangers and exiles. It is with that knowledge that we should never forget our connection to the great prophets of old and even the angels. They searched diligently to discover what they were foretelling. Angels huddled in the corners of heaven and discussed what the prophecies could possibly mean. Finally the day came, and the angels and the prophets watched the awe-filled work of the Son of God. Only then did they discover that all that they longed to know and see would be fulfilled in us. We then, are uniquely connected to the prophets and even to the angels. We who are in the kingdom are now greater in our mission than all the prophets who ever lived, even the greatest, John the Baptist.