Deep, rich, and true theology equips the saints… 1 Peter 1:1-2 (part one)

Posted: June 25, 2010 in Theology
Tags: , , ,

One of the best ways to Equip the Saints, is to go through the bible, verse by verse, and just talk about what it is saying and what logical implications can be made from the reading. Nehemiah 8:8 says, ” They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.” When we help each other accurately see the glory of God revealed through his Word to us, there is nothing more helpful in my own opinion. So I figured I’d just start with 1 Peter.

Father, I pray that as I expound on Your Word, that you would bring forth amazing insights that would not puff us up in knowledge, but that would equip us to move upward and onward in our affections and desires for You. We know that this can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit so I pray now Holy Spirit that you come and move in our hearts. Amen.

[1:1] Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, [2] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

So I started with the first two verses of 1 Peter. Already there are so many things that need to be discussed. We’re only two verses into the book! First thing we can see is that this book is written by the apostle Peter. I will not use this post to do a full biography of Peter, but I just wanted to draw your attention to something about Peter. We first read about Peter in Matthew 4:18-20. It says,

“[18] While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he (Jesus) saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. [19] And he (Jesus) said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
(Matthew 4:18-20 ESV)

What I find interesting is that Peter was not seeking after Jesus. Peter was fishing. Jesus saw Peter and initiated the relationship between him and Peter. Jesus called Peter. Peter responded by following Jesus. Peter did not ask Jesus if he could follow him.

Now lets jump back into 1 Peter. We know that Peter wrote this letter. To whom did Peter write this letter? Well verse one says, “the elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” In short, Peter is writing to the true Christians of the particular area of what is known as present day Turkey. I will be spending the majority of this post to discuss the meaning of “elect exiles,” as well as the rest of 1 Peter 1:1-2.

Lets start with the word “exiles”. It’s always good to have some resources with you when studying the bible. I use Vines Concise Bible Dictionary. It says that in the original Greek text, the word for “exiles” is parepidemos, which is an adjective signifying “sojourning in a strange place, away from one’s own people.” Vines goes on to say that, “the word is thus used metaphorically of those to whom Heaven is their own country, and who are sojourners on earth.” So this helps us understand that Peter is calling them “exiles” because they are Christians and they are aliens or foreigners to this earth. If you’re a Christian don’t you feel like that sometimes or all the time? When times are bad I long to be at home with my Lord and even when times are good, I think to myself, “its going to be even better when I’m at home in Heaven.”

So now on to the word “elect”. Just as I did with the word “exiles”, let’s look at Vines definition of “elect”. The Greek word is eklektos and literally means, “picked out, chosen,” and is used of three groups.

  1. Christ, the “chosen” of God, as the Messiah, Luke 23:35, and metaphorically as the “living Stone,” 1 Pet. 2:4, 6.
  2. Angels, 1 Tim. 5:21, as “chosen” to be of especially high rank in administrative association with God, or as His messengers to human beings, doubtless in contrast to fallen angels.
  3. And lastly, believers (Jews and Gentiles), Matt. 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 22, 21; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; Col 3:12; 2 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:9 (a spiritual race) Matt. 20:16; 22:14 and Rev. 17:14, “chosen”; individual believers are so mentioned in Rom. 16:13; 2 John 1, 13.

The word most often translated as “church” in the New Testament is the Greek word Ekklesia, which literally means “The Called-Out Ones.”  Okay, so these believers, who feel like aliens in this world, were hand picked by God to be believers. Let’s read what else Vines says.

Believers were “chosen” “before the foundation of the world” (cf. “before times eternal,” 2 Tim. 1:9), in Christ, Eph. 1:4, to adoption, Eph. 1:5; good works, 2:10; conformity to Christ, Rom. 8:29; salvation from the delusions of the Antichrist and the doom of the deluded, 2 Thess. 2:13; eternal glory, Rom. 9:23. The source of their “election” is God’s grace, not human will, Eph. 1:4, 5; Rom. 9:11; 11:5. They are given by God the Father to Christ as the fruit of His death, all being foreknown and foreseen by God, John 17:6 and Rom. 8:29.

This is what is called the Doctrine of Election. I hope and pray at this point that there are no sirens going off in your mind and no bad memories of horrible fights with people over this doctrine. If this is happening I ask that you please continue reading and pray, “God if this is really the truth, help me understand it.” My only goal in all of this is to help people see God as He has disclosed Himself in the bible. Some people in the past have taken this doctrine and used it as a means to hurt other people who may not currently look like “the Elect” or faithful Christians who are still struggling with the idea that it was God’s choosing, or electing, and not sinful man, that initiated our salvation and it is God who completes our salvation. Just like Peter, we were not seeking Christ. It was Jesus who was seeking us and He called us and saved us. I will not be able to go into full detail about Reformed Theology, but here is a couple of verses that may help us understand what really happened to us Christians.

[3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.  [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:3-6 ESV)

Before, when we were unbelievers, we were blinded by Satan so that we were unable to understand or see Jesus and the good news of His work on our behalf. Then, as verse six says, God sovereignly chose to break that power of Satan’s blindness and, just as God decreed that there be light by the power of His Word, He decreed new “light” to shine “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” To whom did God do this? To those whom He, as 2 Thessalonians 2:13 describes, chose (or elected) from the beginning to be saved.

Timothy George wrote a little excerpt in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary that I’d like to quote. He said,

The proper response to election is not pride but gratitude for God’s amazing grace that saves eternally. Election, then, is neither a steeple from which we look in judgment on others, nor a pillow to sleep on. It is rather a stronghold in time of trial and a confession of praise to God’s grace and to His glory.

I placed the words “time of trial” in bold because this is the very reason I believe Peter uses such language in 1 Peter. He is not reminding them that God hand-picked them as His followers and gave them everything to be saved and the willingness to accept it so that they are filled with pride! He is doing it because, as you see in the proceeding verses of 1 Peter that these “elect exiles” are being tested through various trials. He is giving them hope and encouragement through heavy theology. This is one of the main goals of theology and when the Body of Christ is lacking in it, there can be very little perseverance in the Christian life.

Peter starts out his first letter with heavy doctrine in order to best serve his readers who are going through very hard trials. He brings them back from their painful situation to the glorious cross of Christ and all it accomplished for them as God’s elect. Are you going through a hard time in life? Maybe it is the typical woe’s that life brings such as struggling finances, personal insecurity, physical needs or pains, or broken relationships. Maybe you were, or now because you have read this post (lol), are questioning some things about Christianity. Understand what Peter wanted his readers to understand… you are the personally chosen elect of God. He thought of you before the foundations of the earth, and He chose you to be the recipient of His amazing grace, not because of what you were or were not going to do, or what you have or have not done. Let this truth about God sink into the depths of your soul and may you be equipped to go through this hard life that we live.

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Comments
  1. Mike Yusko says:

    Just a quick thought from when I read this the other day.

    “What I find interesting is that Peter was not seeking after Jesus. Peter was fishing. Jesus saw Peter and initiated the relationship between him and Peter. Jesus called Peter. Peter responded by following Jesus. Peter did not ask Jesus if he could follow him.”

    Jesus initiated. But Peter necessarily had to respond, either positively or negatively. The question in my mind then, as it relates to Grace, is: “Why did Peter respond?”

    Efficacious grace would say that Jesus willed Peter to follow, instead of continuing to fish.

    Prevenient grace would say that Jesus gave Peter the ability to follow, or keep fishing.

    So in either case, Jesus still initiated. Peter would have inevitably continued to fish as Jesus walked by. I don’t see how prevenient grace diminishes God’s sovereignty as seems to be the claim.

    • I understand what you are saying. My only question is, where is prevenient grace taught in scripture?

    • I found an answer that I feel perfectly satisfies your question as to why Peter responded to Jesus. John 10:27-31 “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” Peter follows Jesus because He was given to Jesus by the Father and because of this giving to Jesus by the Father, they become His sheep. His sheep hear his voice, “Follow me Peter,” and they follow him.

  2. See prevenient grace states that God gives forth every human being enough grace to restore them back to the human condition of Adam before the fall, where he could choose to please God or not please God… free will. The only problem is that no where is this taught explicitly in scripture. Even in John 16:7-11, nothing is being said about giving people a small portion of grace that restores them back to a pre-fall condition, giving them free-will. Do you see what I am saying? That is what prevenient grace is and yet I still cannot find a verse that supports it explicitly or implicitly.

    • Mike Yusko says:

      Prevenient grace isn’t restoring anyone to a pre-fall state. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need Jesus atonement.

      The United Methodist Book of Discipline (2004) defines prevenient grace as “…the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses. This grace prompts our first wish to please God, our first glimmer of understanding concerning God’s will, and our ‘first slight transient conviction’ of having sinned against God. God’s grace also awakens in us an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death and moves us toward repentance and faith.

  3. Mike Yusko says:

    According to Arminius:

    Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace…. This grace [prœvenit] goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co operates lest we will in vain.

    According to Wesley it elicits:

    …the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning His will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against Him.

    The latter I suppose, otherwise it would be the “irresistible grace” of Calvin. I best understand it as the convicting power of the Spirit on the heart of the unregenerate, which would include all of man. Conviction does not necessitate action.

    • Mike Yusko says:

      “The latter” was in regards to your question, not the quotes.

      • So then it really isn’t God alone who saves, according to what you just said. It’s a combination of God’s work & our work that saves us. Doesn’t this give us something to boast about though? I completed the work whereas my non-believing relative didn’t.

  4. Mike Yusko says:

    Not in my mind.

    I’ve always seen it like this: God gave me a gift. The gift was completely undeserved, but freely given. God gave my neighbor the same gift. And He told us what was inside. I choose to unwrap it to use for its intended purpose. He lets it sit on a shelf. We both have the same gift available to us. Neither of us can boast that we deserved it or that it is uniquely given. Unwrapping it certainly can’t be grounds for bragging, as my neighbor could choose to do so at any point. Am I a better person because I unwrapped it? No! The notion of being proud of myself for unwrapping a present is absurd. But when I do open it, thanksgiving pours out of my soul. Maybe I’m humbled by the gift. I appreciate the time or effort or money put into it. It makes me wish my neighbor would open his. I’m sad that he won’t. I want to show him what I got and tell him his box contains the same. I’m proud of the gift. It’s the gift I’m showing off, not my unwrapping skills. My only reaction to my neighbor is grief if he chooses not to open his gift and celebration if he does.

    • So the ultimate action for your salvation to be attained is the work that you need to perform by opening the present. Everyone has the gift. You open it, you get saved. Without this work (performed by a spiritually dead sinner) the person, even though they have the same amount of grace as everyone else (the same gift to keep it with your analogy), the person perishes in hell. If no one in the universe decides to open the gift, the work of Jesus on the cross was worthless, hence making this a big “risk” for God. I understand that analogy. It’s basically the same analogy that I’ve heard over and over again since I started coming to church. That being, we are all drowning in the sea. Jesus comes by with a life preserver and throws it out to us, but we ultimately have to exercise our free will and grab the life preserver (even though we will still say that all the glory still goes to God because without Him throwing us the life preserver, we wouldn’t have been saved.) My only problem is that it just doesn’t seem to flow with what scripture teaches. If I were to bend these analogies to fit scripture, I think it would go like this. For your analogy, God put the same gift on you and your neighbor’s dead rotting corpse. All that you would need to do, in order to be saved, is open the gift. The problem is that you are dead (Ephesians 2:5). Same thing with the “drowning in the sea” analogy. The analogy is flawed because the person is not drowning in the sea; the person is a rotting corpse at the bottom of the sea. The life preserver has no purpose because there is no life to preserve in the dead person at the bottom of the sea. I stumbled on a good blog post that explains this in further detail. Litl-Luther explains,

      “A more biblical analogy would be of an open grave. This grave was dug out by the hands of our father, and we fell in, and in so doing, our eyes were violently rent, our eardrums gored with debris; our necks were crushed by the fall, and we died. Adam’s sin as well as our own covers us in the form of six feet of solid earth. Nothing is able to penetrate this hard dirt except for the worms which feast upon our rotting corpses. The Son of God has the only tool capable or necessary for lifting off the tons of earth that weigh upon us and crush our bones to powder. By His cross and resurrection, Jesus takes away our dirt, lifts us out of our tomb; and in His mercy, He speaks life into our dead bones and says “Live!” It is at that moment that our eyesight is restored; our hearing returns to us; sinews cover our dry bones and our bodies are able to move. Seeing the beauty of the Son of God for the first time and hearing His voice CAUSES us to run to Him WILLINGLY and cling to Him for our lives. …Sadly though, in time many of us begin to think we somehow helped pull ourselves out of our tombs, as if the faith we have were not also God’s gift to us, and forgetting that it was entirely an act of God’s grace toward us that saved us from the grave. But then there are many as well who press forward to give all the credit of their salvation to God alone. Some of these are ridiculed by their fellows by calling them “know-it-alls”, “prideful”, “arrogant” and the like. But no matter what is said, these will not flinch in their conviction. They set their faces like flint, pointing to Jesus as the Alpha and Omega of their salvation, the Author and Perfecter of their faith, because they have not forgotten their former days when they were but dust into whom God spoke life.

      Lazarus could have patted himself on the back and said “I walked out of the tomb myself (by God’s grace, but I did it myself). I’m the one who stood up and walked to my Lord! But of course, Lazarus would be forgetting that he was previously a dead man, and Jesus made him alive before he could do anything. I think this is the same mistake many non-Calvinists make. They forget they were once dead; God made them alive, making it possible for them to believe, possible for them to repent, possible for them to turn and walk willingly to Christ.

      Spiritual death is a reality, not just an analogy. It is a certainty if we are to take Scripture seriously. If fallen people are not dead, then right from the beginning the serpent was right and God was the liar. (Gen. 2:17)

      Unbelievers are incapable of submitting to God’s Laws (Rom. 8:7). They are incapable of comprehending or accepting the things of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). They are incapable of coming to Christ (John 6:44, 65). They are incapable of seeking God (Rom. 3:11), period. Repentance must be granted to them (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). Faith in Christ must also be granted to them (Phil. 1:29). Unbelievers can do nothing Godward. They are blind to the things of God (John 3:3), deaf to His voice (Matt. 13:15; John 5:25). Their hearts are entirely deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Every thought they have is only evil (Gen. 6:5). The Bible paints an ugly picture of our fallen race (Rom. 3:10-19). Of themselves, they are utterly without hope (Eph 2:12; Matt. 19:25-26). In short, it takes much more than simple prodding for an unbeliever to turn to Christ. It takes resurrection from the dead! (John 5:25; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13)

      The dead must be brought to life in order to repent and believe. Paul tells us that God does a work in us so powerful in order for us to believe upon Him; it is equal in power to raising Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:17-20). And Regeneration (AKA: Being born again) is something completely of God; something we are completely neutral in. We see our passivity in regeneration, for instance, when John 1:13 assures us that our human wills did not play any part in our being born again. God makes us alive. This is the answer to the “why” and to the “how” of our coming to Christ.”

  5. school grants says:

    this post is very usefull thx!

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