So, this is the first part in a series on 1 Peter. I’ve called it indestructible. The apostle Peter wrote this letter and what we know about Peter is that he went from pride to humility, instability to steadfastness, fear to boldness, prejudice to grace and violence to peace. In his letter we too can discover how to cultivate indestructible hope, peace, love, marriages, worship and leadership.
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2according 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.
Who wrote it?
It may seem like a no brainer since verse 1 says it’s Peter. But many have objected to the classic view that Peter wrote 1 Peter. What they don’t understand is that Peter became who he was through Jesus! Some say it’s written far too eloquently for a fisherman. It doesn’t sound like Peter. In reading its exhortation to humility and submission you might wonder ‘isn’t this the same guy who cut off someone’s ear and wanted to stop Jesus from going to the cross?!?’But Peter underwent such an immense change because he met Jesus. Peter recognized Jesus as the Christ and Jesus told him who he really was. Peter or then called Simon recognized that Jesus was indeed the Christ and Jesus called him Peter. The name Simon in Hebrew can mean shifting sand. Peter means rock! He said to Jesus; ‘I believe that you are the Christ’ and Jesus in a word redefined his identity. You are not shifting sand, you are not unreliable, you will no longer be inconsistent; you are the rock!
If you have become a Christian you cannot be the same. Everything must change. The way you think, the way you party, the clothes you wear, the books you read, the people you hang out with, the boyfriend you choose, the way you do relationships, the causes you commit to. Absolutely everything must change.
To whom is it written?
1To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontious, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythinia
Who is Peter writing to? Surprisingly Peter is not writing to Jewish believers. He writes to Gentiles. He describes the empty way of life handed to them from their fathers (1:18) and later he describes their past lifestyle of “debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (4:3). They were Gentile pagans of note! They came straight from the clubs. They don’t know anything about church. They were still hung over from parting on Saturday night when they met Jesus on Sunday morning. But now they are “the elect”. I bet they don’t even know what that meant. See, it is possible to be a Christian and not fully understand the value of what you are. It is possible to have salvation and take it for granted. And Peter has to tell them ‘hey guys your faith is of greater worth than gold’ (1:7), don’t you know the “prophets were serving you when they searched intently to figure out what the Spirit of Christ was saying’ (1:12), and even “angels long to look into these things” (1:12). Do you know the value of your salvation? You may be a lot wealthier than you know. But they didn’t know.
In addition to being ignorant these Gentiles are experiencing increased suffering because of following Christ. But what kind of suffering? Some suggest that when Peter calls them “aliens and strangers” (2:11) he literally means that they were foreigners, refugees, people who are trying to etch out a living in the provinces of Rome. This would imply that they were struggling. That like refugees in our country struggle these people did not have access to the same job opportunities, the same state benefits, the same social class as the citizens of Rome did. And as well as being refugees they became Christians, which added further constraints on their day-to-day lives. Their suffering is one of social exclusion and being Christian intensified their exclusion.
And their temptation is like our temptation. I just want to blend in. I don’t want to stick out. Their temptation is to assimilate themselves into the culture. And Peter has to say no! Do not blend in! Do not live as the pagans do, the way you once did! Do not act like your other employees do! Don’t go on smoke breaks with everyone else just to fit in. Don’t laugh at inappropriate jokes to blend in. You belong elsewhere, you are citizen, but of a different city.
What is it about?
Who have been chosen 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
They had been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God. What is that? Does that mean that God knew that they would love him first and so he decided to love them in return? No, that’s not Biblical. God knew you would love him, because he loved you first. Foreknowledge is God choosing you before the foundations of the earth. Foreknowledge is God arranging everything so that you would come to him. Foreknowledge is what happens when a sovereign God sets his heart on you. It’s powerful love. But here comes those rude words:
through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
What’s that? What is the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus? Its God not letting me continue to be the same. Sanctification means ‘becoming holy’. God loves us so much that he wants to make us holy and obedient to Jesus. Now how does this happen?
See the Gentiles were deeply loved by God but they are suffering a little. They are experiencing social exclusion and being Christian is not helping. When your friends speak about what they did for fun over the weekend do you feel pressurized to change your story just a little?
When you start living out your faith in Christ you will face social exclusion. Is it easy to be a Christian at varsity? Will you be ridiculed if you articulate your Christian beliefs into your assignments, into your friendships, in your family? Will you possibly lose a job because your Christian ethics challenge secular ethics? Will your friends ask questions if you say no to pirated music or series? Could there be misunderstandings if you have hectic boundaries with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Will your friends take offence if you tell them about finding their worth in Jesus not in their career, in boys, in being good-looking? If you haven’t experienced social exclusion then you are not living radically enough.
If you find yourself asking the question ‘why me Lord?’ The answer is this, I’m giving you a new identity because I love you. Your citizenship is not of this world. You are an alien and a stranger. Don’t get comfortable here. If you are a Christian and you have placed your identity in anything other than God, get ready for shaking. He loves you too much to live in ignorance.