God is with you, Part 1
1 Peter 1v1-2
Included in God's people
3rd March 2017
Today, we begin a new series, looking at the first Epistle of Peter. It begins:
1 Peter 1v1-2
Peter addresses this letter to "God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia". At that time, these were provinces of the Roman empire. So Peter was writing to Christians who lived in what we think of as northern Turkey. We also know they were mostly Gentiles, because in verse 18 Peter talks about "the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers" and in Chapter 4 verse 3, Peter tells them "you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry". Peter would never has spoken about his fellow Jews in that way.
Many times in this letter Peter speaks about Christians - the church - in terms that were originally used to describe Old Testament Israel. This shows us that Peter fully accepted that Christians were now included in God's chosen people. His experience in Cornelius's house had proved that to him.
(Paul also understood this, of course. As he teaches in Romans 4, all Christians are children of Abraham, and heirs of God's promises. As he teaches in Romans 11, all Christians are grafted into God's people.)
Peter begins his letter by describing the recipients of the letter - who were Christians, and most of whom were Gentiles, as "God's elect". The word "elect" means "chosen". Peter is calling Christians God's chosen people. He'll make that even more clear in Chapter 2.
He also describes the believers as scattered. This is another way Peter identifies the church - God's New Testament people - with Israel - God's Old Testament people. Ever since the exile in the 7th century BC, the Jews had described themselves as the Diaspora - the scattered ones. Peter now calls the church the Diaspora - scattered by Jewish persecution, just as God's Old Testament people were scattered by the Babylonians. Acts 8:1 tell us that on the day Stephen was stoned to death "a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria". Continued Jewish and Roman persecution continued this process of scattering, and people from across the Roman world came to hear the Gospel and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Rather than being a national belief system, as in Old Testament times, salvation through Jesus is for people throughout the whole world.
Peter describes the church as those "who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood". This is one of the great Trinitarian passages in the Bible. As is often said, the word "Trinity" isn't is in the Bible, but the doctrine of the Holy Trinity certainly is.
You and I, and every Christian, have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. We've been chosen through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and we've been chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood. This single sentence tells us who chose us; how that choice was made reality, and why that choice was made.
Dear fellow believer, dear Christian brother or sister, you have been chosen - hand-picked - by God the Father. He chose you in accordance with His foreknowledge, which means that before the world was created He knew that you would be born, and He knew that He would chose you. More than this, He knew what you would be like, and he chose you anyway. That's a great comfort, isn't it? He knew in advance all the ways we would let Him down, and He still chose us.
Dear fellow believer, dear Christian brother or sister, you have been chosen through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. God the Father chose to save you for Himself, and he chose to employ His Holy Spirit to sanctify you - to set you apart. First the Holy Spirit of God opened the eyes of your heart to understand the Gospel - the Good News about Jesus coming to die on the cross to pay for your sins. Then the Holy Spirit gave you faith to believe the truth, so you could come to God in repentance and trust Him to forgive you and to lead you and protect you through this life and for all eternity. Now the Holy Spirit works inside you, changing your heart to make you like Jesus - gentle and humble, honest and kind, faithful and self-controlled.
Dear fellow believer, dear Christian brother or sister, you have been chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood. God chose you so you could turn away from your rebellious, selfish, futile ways, and embrace God's standards, God's laws, God's precepts, so you could stop trying to make sense of your life and your future, and let God lead. And God chose you so Jesus would pay the price for your sins by shedding His holy blood to make atonement for you.
Peter prays, "Grace and peace be yours in abundance". "Grace" means "favour". May God's favour be yours in abundance. May God pour out His riches upon you generously. "Peace" means much more than the absence of strife. Peace translates the Hebrew word "Shalom", which means well-being, health, success. May God give you peace despite your circumstances. May God give you peace in your body. May God give you peace in your heart. May your heart be truly well. May you be free from envy, free from lust, free from greed, free from addictions, free from resentment, free from anger, free from shame. May you be filled with love, peace and joy.
You were chosen for these things. Jesus Christ died so you could receive these things. The Holy Spirit comes to teach you, and encourage you, and shape you, to enjoy these things.
We are God's chosen people. He chose us to be good people, and he chose us to enjoy the good things of God.