Wednesday, June 9, 2010

1 Peter 1 – The Apostle to the Elect

1 Peter 1

Greeting to the Elect Pilgrims

 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

[Right away we know who is writing and who he is writing to. Peter is frequently listed as first among the apostles, and the leader of the church of Jerusalem. Now this doesn't mean what the Roman church says it does.

Matthew 16:18 

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

When Jesus called Simon by the name Peter the Greek word "Petros" it means a piece of rock. The other two words for rock are "lithos" which is a rock carved for a particular purpose like a millstone or a corner stone, and "petra" which is a mass of stone like a mountain, or as I always think of it The Rock of Gibraltar. "Upon this rock I will build MY church" uses "petra" not "petros". If you think about it Peter's name is still a great honor because Jesus could be saying you are a piece or a part of me. Jesus changed a fisherman to an apostle that shared in the salvation and the suffering of incarnate God! Because he redeems us, we like Peter, share in the inheritance of God's kingdom, but Christ remains the head of the church.

Peter is writing to "pilgrims of the Dispersion", those who have been scattered. I Peter 5 tells us he was in Babylon with the local church there, when he wrote this letter. This is modern day Iraq. The Roman Catholic Church trying to make Peter the "Bishop Apostle of Rome" the first Pope, say he was in Rome from AD 42-67 so they see Babylon as code for Rome because of the idolatry and debauchery they practiced.

Biblically they have a lot of problems trying to establish Peter as a constant Christian presence in Rome:

1. In A.D. 44 Peter was in prison in Jerusalem (Acts 12).
2. He was a prominent member of the Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 49 (Acts 15).
3. Soon afterward he was in Antioch, where Paul rebuked him for showing favoritism to the Jews and dividing the church (Gal. 2). Who can rebuke the Pope? Just a thought…
4. Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans in A.D. 56. The epistle makes no mention of Peter and contains no apology for interfering in the sphere of another apostle's labors. On the contrary, Paul says that he would not "build upon another man's foundation" (Rom. 15:20). There is no hint in this letter of anything like an apostolic visit to Rome by Peter or any other apostle.
5. In this same epistle (Romans), Paul greets two dozen people by name. The name of Peter is conspicuously absent.
6. When Paul at last arrives in Rome, he is met by a company of believers. Again no mention is made of Peter (Acts 28:15).
7. Paul met with a company of Jews while imprisoned in Rome, where they stated that they had heard nothing about Christianity (Acts 28:22). This seems hard to believe given Peter's supposed 17 year residence as "chief bishop" in the city.
8. While a prisoner in Rome (A.D. 59-61), Paul wrote four epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) and names numerous people who were his helpers in the work at Rome. No mention is made of Peter, which, to say the least is very strange if Peter was the Bishop of Rome.

Another thing to note is Peter just calls himself "an apostle of Jesus Christ", he never asserts any authority other than being one of the twelve.

Many of the letters in the New Testament were written to one church, but Peter was writing to several "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia", most of these places are now in modern day Turkey. To really grasp the meaning of the title "pilgrim" you need to grasp the level of persecution these scattered saints experienced. 1 Peter was written around AD 63 in the middle of Nero's reign as Caesar. The seed of persecution that was planted by Saul (Acts 8) and watered by Herod (Acts 12) was now growing rapidly and becoming organized and savage. What began as isolated acts of the Jewish authorities, or Jewish and Gentile mobs, gradually evolved into the official policy of the Roman government, which saw the refusal of Christians to participate in the state religion as a form of rebellion. One of the atrocities committed by Nero was to bind Christians, dip them in hot wax, then burn them like a candle. So when you see people suffer like this, for their faith, then you know you are a pilgrim, a stranger in a strange land, and this place is not your home. I don't usually take a page and a half of notes to do one verse, but this is what it took today.]

2 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.

[Peter calls these pilgrims "elect" or chosen. The apostle reiterates this concept in chapter 2 verse 9, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

This is reminiscent of Paul's address to the church at Ephesus, "We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the council of His will" (Eph. 1:11).

Paul also said to the Thessalonians, "Be we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). For similar phrasing see also: John 15:16; Rom. 8:29-30; I Cor. 1:27; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:10; Col. 3:12; I Thess. 1:4; and Titus 1:1.

Jesus said in John 6:44, "No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day". God has chosen people out of the world to belong to Him, and the church is that people. Jesus told His disciples in the Upper Room, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain" (John 15:16).

Those in love with the idea of free will tend to have a problem with election. But you need to understand that a fallen man also has sinful and wicked will. John 1 :12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The role of "free will" in salvation is for me to surrender my sinful will to the grace and mercy of God.

Peter continues saying we are elect "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father".

The Source of our salvation is God Himself. We love Him because He FIRST loved us (1 John 4:10).
It is only by God's grace that anyone is saved, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8&9).

The Bible clearly states that man is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1), and that "There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:11).

Throughout the Bible it is God who sovereignly initiates redemption. Think of Noah, Abram, Moses, the prophets, etc. Even in sending Christ, redemption was God's initiative. In Paul's conversion, God took sovereign initiative.

Some have a difficult time with God's sovereign foreknowledge when it comes to our salvation. They will trust God's sovereignty in our birth (Psalm 139; Jer. 1:5), but not in our re-birth (Eph. 1:5). They will trust God's sovereignty in our circumstances (Rom. 8:28), but not in our salvation (Rom. 8:29).

"Election", "foreknowledge", and "predestination" are not words or a doctrinal concept conjured up by man to confuse Christians. These are words and a doctrine given to us by God in His Word. They are not to be dismissed or avoided.

C. The sphere of salvation (v.2c)
"in sanctification of the Spirit"

The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit encompasses all that the Spirit produces in salvation: faith (Eph. 2:8), repentance (Acts 11:15-18), regeneration (Titus 3:5), and adoption (Rom. 8:16-17). Thus election, the plan of God, becomes a reality in the life of the believer through salvation, the work of God, which the Holy Spirit carries out.

It is God's Holy Spirit that convicts, quickens, cleans, and completes God's work of salvation in our lives!

At salvation the sanctifying work of the Spirit sets believers apart from sin to God, separates them from darkness to light, sets them apart from unbelief to faith, and mercifully separates them to a love of righteousness (John 3:3-8; Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 5:17; cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-16; Eph. 2:1-5; 5:8; Col. 2:13).

D. The sign of salvation (v.2d)
"for obedience"

While obedience to Jesus is NOT the source of salvation, it IS the sign of salvation. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Paul called it "the obedience of faith" (Rom. 1:5).

Believers do not obey perfectly or completely (I John 1:8-10; Rom. 7:14-25), but nonetheless there is a pattern of obedience in their lives as they, through Christ, become servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18; 8:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:5b).

E. The security of salvation (v.2e)
"and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ"

Peter's metaphor here looks back to the time in the Old Testament when blood was sprinkled on the people of Israel. That event is significant enough that the letter to the Hebrews mentions it once specifically and once by allusion (9:19-20; 12:24). You can read about it in Exodus 24:3-8.

Essentially a covenant was made between God and Israel. An altar was built and the blood of young bulls was shed. Half of the blood was placed on the altar (symbolizing God's agreement to reveal His law), and half of the blood was sprinkled on the people (symbolizing their consent to obey).

Peter states that when believers were spiritually "sprinkled" with Christ's blood, they entered a new covenant of obedience. The blood that sprinkles seals the covenant and secures the believer.

F. The sustenance of salvation (v.2f)
"Grace to you and peace be multiplied"

Each week when I send the class e-mail I sign it "Grace and peace". You see this greeting / blessing used 19 times in the New Testament by Peter, Paul and John. A few times Paul also adds "mercy" to the salutation. John even uses it to begin his address to the 7 churches in Asia, in the book of Revelation.

Peter wishes his readers God's grace and its resultant peace in maximum allotment or quantity. He wished for them all the best that God can offer believers, and that it would repeatedly increase to their advantage.

Peter wanted the recipients of his letter to experience all the rich and varied blessings of being God's elect. It is my hope that you walk in that grace and peace each week.]

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