This letter is the first of 2 that the Apostle Peter writes. Peter was considered “The Apostle to the Jews” (Galatians 2:9), whereas Paul was considered “The Apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). On the other hand, Peter was chosen by the Holy Spirit to send the Gospel to the first Gentiles, Acts 10. These two letters were likely written after the death of Paul in AD 64, although he refers to “or beloved brother, Paul” in 2 Peter 3:15,16. It is likely that Peter, seen as a main leader of the Church, has taken on the responsibility of writing to both Jew and Gentile.
Peter was the disciple who denied the Lord Jesus, even as Jesus predicted. He was also restored by the Lord Jesus after Jesus’ resurrection, John 21:15-19. Peter was friends with John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark. It is highly recognized that Mark received the majority of his information from Peter. Mark also denied the Lord by leaving His service while on a missionary journey, Acts 13:13 and 15:36-41. He, too, was later restored, 2 Timothy 4:11. The results of having denied the Lord and being restored can be seen in these 2 letters of Peter, and in the Gospel of Mark.
Peter writes about “suffering well as a Believer”. He refers to the Sufferings of Christ on our behalf 7 times, the Suffering of Believers as they follow Christ 6 times, and continually reminds his readers of the hope and joy that can be present in suffering, and the need to be ministers to others even while suffering.
At the time of this letter, the Church is living through the beginnings of persecutions, from both the Jews and the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire would eventually step-up the persecutions, growing in scope and brutality, even become “sanctioned” by the government. Peter writes to encourage the Believers to persevere, presenting the Lord Jesus Christ as our ultimate example.
As with ay other study of Scripture, when there are often repeated phrases, words, concepts (such as suffering here) these must be seen as the major subject. Peter writes with a specific purpose, to encourage and help give hope to those who suffer because of being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This letter can be a great encouragement to all Believers who are suffering because of their faith in Christ. This is likely the major theme of this letter.
In beginning this study, I recommend that you read the entire letter through in one sitting, several times. As you do, take note of repeated phrases and words, or thoughts. Keep in mind the people Peter to whom Peter is writing, their circumstances particularly. Ask yourself, “How would these original recipients have understood Peter’s letter?” Notice the flow of thought of Peter, *remembering that chapters and verses are not original to the Bible; try to overlook the topic headings, chapter and verse divisions. Read the context, not simply the words.
*(Chapters were not added until the 13th Century, verses not until the 15th and 16th Century)
I. 1 Peter 1:1,2 Context:
Peter writes to the believers who are “scattered” or, dispersed. This is a special word, used in the Old Testament for the scattering of the tribes of Israel. In the New Testament, it is used to describe the scattering of the Church into the far reaches of the world.
A. Acts 8:1 and following. The Church is scattered away from Jerusalem because of persecution. They go about poaching the Word. This was God’s plan, so the scattering was also God’s plan.
B. Acts 11:19 and following. This a second referral to the scattering of the church from Jerusalem because of persecution.
Notice that “scattering” is part of God’s plan for His Church. They were never meant to stay a tight-knit group in Jerusalem, but they needed to carry the message to the rest of the world. God utilized persecution to accomplish His will.
How does this help us regarding God’s Sovereignty, in accomplishing His plans?
II. 1 Peter:1,2 Introduction
A. Apostle – Peter claims his authority as commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. (Luke 22:32; John 21:15-17) He is a messenger, entrusted with the message of God’s Word to the World.
B. To the Elect Sojourners scattered throughout…..
1. The word “elect” is is meant to describe the Believers that Peter is writing to.
a. “Elect” means “chosen, set apart by choice
b. It is descriptive of something that God alone has the authority and character to accomplish.
The Greek words used for “elect” and “sojourners” are adjectives, not nouns that are titles. In other words, it is God’s description of what He has done in these people, a description of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as they responded to the message of the Gospel. It is NOT meant to be a formal title.
Someone said once, “It is amazing how many more people are elected when the Gospel is proclaimed”.
c. It is meant as an encouragement, resting in God’s sovereignty.
This may be the most important application in this letter. Peter wants these Believers to grow strong in their faith and trust, ultimately to God’s glory.
There are people in the churches today, well-meaning, who have taken this idea of “election” to an extreme. They will say that God chooses who will be saved and not saved, and that humans have no choice in the matter. They cite many bible verses, but they miss the context of when it is used. Instead, they apply their own meaning of choice, then make it fit the passage. The result has been great harm to the churches of Christ, to the point of Believers not sharing the Gospel because they don’t believe it makes any difference.
Be careful here about getting into a lengthy theological discussion or study of “election” This can certainly be valuable, however, it can easily lead to a sterile view of God and how He works. Keep in mind Peters purpose: to encourage the suffering Believers. Do not give it a different meaning by giving it a different context.
d. Later in this letter Peter will say more about being God’s people.
2. Sojourners, or, Exiles – “Strangers residing in a place not their own”
a. They have been forced to leave Jerusalem;
b. They are now “residents of Heaven, with a new allegiance and Sovereign” – Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:8-19
3. Scattered (see Acts 8:4; 11:19-26)
a. Sent away forcibly from their previous residences, homes;
b. Scattered in the Sovereignty of God.
What might the sudden scattering of these Jewish Believers mean to them? ( Consider how they have been forced to leave their homes in Jerusalem rather quickly, under difficult circumstances from persecution.)
What would they left behind? What would their new places of residence require?
There is another use of this thought here: every Believer is a stranger to the world, is a future resident of Heaven. Earth is merely a “way-station” for us, we do not belong here. All through the New Testament we are referred to as strangers, pilgrims, citizens of Heaven….. We want to take others with us, want others to become “strangers” too. This is why we are still here.
c. Representing the Lord Jesus Christ in the far reaches of the known world
Why does God want His people to take the Gospel to the world? Why does He not do this in another way that makes it easy on HIs people?
C. According to the Foreknowledge of God the Father
1. According to – that is, God’s own mind and plans. He does not ask, needs no advice or counsel.
2. Foreknowledge – another simple concept made overly complicated by well-meaning people. It simply means “He knows before”. He says nothing else about this, and it is another way God describes His characteristics.
How, then, does God’s sovereign choices affect these particular Believers? In their scattering? In their new homes? In the sufferings they endure for Christ?
Peter, then, writes to encourage these scattered sojourners so that they will encourage one another, support one another, and continue to spread the message of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. All, even their suffering, is for the Glory of God and for their spiritual health and strength.
D. Through Sanctification of the [Holy] Spirit
1. Sanctification means “to dedicate to the service of”. It can also mean “make pure, holy”. Here, in the context, the first meaning is referred to. God, in His foreknowledge, has chosen these Believers to be “set aside for His service”.
Take note: this is the word that the two adjectives, “elect” and “sojourners” modifies. God is interested in our sanctification and is the One making it effective.
Where and what kind of service? (Consider how 1 Corinthians 12:1-7 might apply here)
2. This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. He is the One Who works in the life of each Believer, indwells and seals each Believer, and empowers each Believer. This is according to the promise of the Lord Jesus from John 16:12-15. (Also read Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:14; 4:30; 5:18; 6:17)
E. Toward Obedience and Sprinkling of the blood of Christ
1. Toward – there is a district purpose in God’s sovereign choices. What does He expect?
2. Obedience – this is the result of being transformed by Christ. The Believer is commanded to be an obedient servant to God, living according to His Word. There is no option provided.
3. Sprinkling of the blood of Christ. This is a little more difficult to understand. First, how might the original readers have understood this?
a. A ceremonial sprinkling, meant to be cleansing or purifying. This was the symbolism of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. (See Hebrews 9:1-10:4)
b. A regular cleansing, daily.
Both of these are true. Together this teaches that we, Believers, are not only forgiven at the time of salvation, but that we continue to be forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is where 1 John 1:7-9 applies. As Believers, we are not perfected in this world, we still disobey. However, the blood of Christ paid for ALL sin, even those after we are saved. When we truly confess, He is faithful to forgive and cleanse because of the blood of Christ.
How can this encourage these Believers? How might it encourage all Believers through all ages? How does it encourage me?
F. Grace, Peace multiplied to you
This is a standard greeting, yet it has great significance.
1. Grace – this is “The Goodness of God”. (Please read the Word Study on Grace ) http://keepitincontext.com/index.php/2015/11/07/396/
a. The peace that comes to the Believer, resting in the Sovereignty of God.
b. The peace that comes to the Believer, being forgiven fully;
c. The peace that is within even when the outward circumstances are not “peaceful”;
d. The “confidence” of a Believer on the Word of God and the Person of God, knowing that His plans are far better than ours.
3. Multiplied – more than enough, growing in power and strength as each obeys and trusts.
A. Truths presented
1. God is Sovereign in His choices in every part of the life of the Believer;
2. God is to be trusted, is incapable of making mistakes;
3. God has set each believer part for His purposes, service.
B. Apply the truth
1. Rest in God’s knowledge, power, Sovereignty;
2. Stand strong in the Grace and Peace given to me, even multiplied as I follow Christ.
3. Confess my sins to Him, receiving forgiveness and cleansing because of Christ
4. Do not fear sharing the Gospel, growing in knowledge;
5. Do not fear failure because no Believer is yet perfected.
As you continue to study 1 Peter, keep in mind his purpose for writing. This will help to gain a deeper understanding of the letter.