“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”
1 Peter 1:1
The apostle Peter is about to address a group of diverse Christians; followers of Christ from different territories, who spoke different languages, were integrated into different cultures, and were made up of both Gentiles and some Jewish converts. The one thing they had in common? Chosen by God to live by faith and to not fit in.
There are three valuable gems that I want to examine in this one single verse that opens the door to book of 1 Peter: this letter is applicable to all Christians, followers of Jesus are God’s chosen people, we are currently separated from and awaiting our true home in heaven.
Concerning All Christians
I have heard people say, both Christians and Non-, that the Bible isn’t entirely relevant to us today. I have heard arguments that not everything we read in God’s Word is applicable to our modern times and ways of doing things. Let me just say that I fully believe that the Bible is timeless, it never expires, runs dry, or is in need of a new edition. (1 Peter 1:25 “but the word of the Lord remains forever.”) The words Peter will share is “the word” of God and it lasts from age to age.
What I am trying to establish is that as Peter opens his letter he is addressing a wide scope of Christians (“..Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia..”), and regardless of their location, culture, or language his words are applicable to all of them. Likewise, they are applicable to us regardless of our era or upbringing. Please realize that 5 verses from now when Peter talks about being grieved by various trials for the purpose of perfecting your faith he is talking to you and me, and when he speaks to us wives about “being subject to our own husbands” for the Lord’s sake and to you husbands about living with your wife in an “understanding way” so that your prayers won’t be hindered he is speaking to us….right now, in our modern times and ways of doing things.
Gem #1…… read the Bible with your name in it because it was written for you! (eg. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To Your Name Here…..” 1 Peter 1:1)
Selected for Divine Mercy
Peter greets the recipients of his letter as the “elect exiles”, our second examination is a brief but important one of the word “elect”.
In a political election voters vote for whom they want to be their President, Council, Mayor, etc. The candidates fate is in the hands of the people, they do not choose themselves, they either will or will not be chosen by the voters.
Now, this is a very weak example of the election of people by God, but the straw that I will pull from it is this: God chooses some, according to His Wisdom, to receive divine mercy. We are totally unlike political candidates in that we were not even trying to be noticed by God, but rather He noticed us, and in pity and love elected some to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
I understand that election is a theologically weighty subject, and since my purpose is to examine the context of 1 Peter 1:1 I will get to that point and share only one more verse on the word.
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:30
Before Peter dives into teaching, exhorting, and encouraging the believers he explicitly reminds them that they are chosen by God; the new Israel. Why does that matter? Because, if our salvation is not even of our own doing (Ephesians 2:8-9) then everything he is about to lay out to us will also have to be accomplished by God’s grace and strength in our lives and not our own.
Gem #2: … we were undeservedly selected by God and depend entirely on Him for strength to obey His words.
Away from Home
So we’ve determined so far that the letter Peter is writing was applicable then and now to all Christians and that we can be confident in paying close attention to his teachings as the inspired word of God. We’ve also realized our completely undeserved and beautiful election by God and have understood that all things he has commanded us to do can only be accomplished by his power working through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Now comes the toughest part of the message in 1 Peter 1:1 because it concerns our required need for patience and suffering, and that is the title he gives us of exile.
The dictionary describes this word as “prolonged separation from one’s country or home“.
We are currently away from our home, which is in heaven, and this is exactly what Peter is referring to when he sends this letter out to the five territories it is addressed to. See the two other mentions of the word exile in 1 Peter 1:17 and 1 Peter 2:11,
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
(1 Peter 1:17 ESV)
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
(1 Peter 2:11 ESV)
As exiles we are longing for the day when we will meet Him face to face and live with Him forever, but for the time being we work while we wait without conforming to the passions of the flesh and living with the fear of God.
So while the word exile does mean we will suffer and have to be patient it also means HOPE.
Gem #3:… we have HOPE that because we are not of this world there is eternal joy awaiting us in our true HOME with our great TREASURE, Christ.
Preparing the Way,