Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Letter to Scatterlings

To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Peter writes to people who are “pilgrims,” “temporary residents” (HCSB), “strangers” (KJV), “those who reside as aliens” (NASB). They are a people displaced, and probably not voluntarily. They are “exiles” (ESV), probably because of the persecution in Rome that was starting to heat up under Nero. Peter probably wrote this from Rome, referring to it as Babylon (1Peter 5:13). In the Old Testament, to which Peter frequently alludes, Babylon was the place of exile for the Jews.

These believers were diaspora, scatterlings dispersed throughout five Romans provinces in Asia Minor. The ones James wrote his letter to were mostly Jewish believers, of the “twelve tribes,” spread out among non-believing Gentiles (James 1:1). These to whom Peter writes are a blend of Jewish and Gentile believers, displace because of their faith in Jesus the Messiah.

Peter calls them “elect,” chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God.” They are the people of God and part of His eternal plan. Whatever they are going through, it has not taken God by surprise and, more importantly, He will not let them down but will see them through.

They are sanctified, consecrated, set apart by the Holy Spirit as God’s own. It is why He has chosen them, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood. This is an allusion to Exodus 24:7-8, when God first made covenant with the children of Israel. The people answered, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” Then Moses took the blood of sacrifice and sprinkled it on them, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” In Jesus Christ, we are joined to God in a new and better covenant, established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup of wine and said, “This is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). The obedience here is the obedience of faith, putting our trust in Jesus the Messiah.

Though Peter does not develop a theology of the Trinity here, notice how he identifies the three persons of the Godhead: the Father in His foreknowledge and gracious choice, Jesus Christ in the shedding of His blood, and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Then there is the benediction, the words of blessing, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” A common Jewish salutation was “Greetings and peace,” but the apostles altered that. The Greek word for “greetings,” chairein, means to be well and full of cheer. But the apostles used a related word, charis, the word for “grace.” In their usage, it signifies the grace or favor that comes from God. The Greek word for “peace” is eirene, but being Jewish, Peter no doubt had in mind the Hebrew shalom, which speaks of the wholeness that comes from God. The addition of “be multiplied” is peculiar to Peter’s letters and the epistle of Jude. It speaks of the fullness of divine favor and wholeness being revealed. God does not withhold His blessing from us, but as we grow in grace and come to know the Lord Jesus more and more (2 Peter 3:18), we experience more and more the fullness of His grace and peace.

This letter was to be copied and circulated especially to the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, although it has, of course, come to the whole Church in the canon of Scripture. Some commentators take it as a catechism, instruction for converts, or a letter of exhortation and encouragement for the newly baptized.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get ToughKeeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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