Introduction & Greetings – 1 Peter 1.1-2

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

Peter: see Author.

An apostle…: Without doubt Peter was one of those selected & sent by Christ Jesus.

To those…of the Dispersion: Here is some of the Jewish flavor of this epistle. Dispersion was a term used by Jews to describe their countrymen who we scattered abroad living among the pagans. But these are elect exiles of the Dispersion, i.e. Christians among the pagans in Asia Minor. They were chosen by the King of the universe to be included in His people (elect). Thus, they have a new country—Heaven (Phil 3.20)—a true spiritual homeland (exiles).

Pontus: Asia Minor province which stretched along the south shore of the Black Sea.

Galatia: North-Central Roman territory which could include ethnic areas in the south.

Cappadocia: Isolated area due to Taurus Mtns. (N), Euphrates River (W), & Lake Tatta (E).

Asia: Roman province which embraced western parts of Asia Minor with Ephesus as capital.

Bithynia: Roman province in NW Asia Minor. Paul was prevented from going here (Acts 16.7).

“Elect exiles” is Peter’s “two-word sermon” for this epistle (Grudem 48). Election has a rich Jewish history going back to the origin of the nation of Israel. Springing from His love for their “fathers” God “chose their offspring after them” (Deut 4.37). Regularly Israel is presented as God’s “chosen one’s” (Psalm 105.6; 106.5) or His “chosen people” (Isa 43.20). Also prevalent in the Old Testament is the sojourner motif. This goes all the way back to the father of the faith Abraham who was a “sojourner” among the Hittites (Gen 23.4; cf. Heb 11.13). Although these two themes are dominant in the Old Testament, no one in either Jewish or Christian literature had combined them into this single phrase of “elect exile” as Peter does. Further, Peter applies this phrase to Christians living under empire (i.e. Rome). Though in an earthly sense they may have lived in & been citizens of one city, spiritually they were transients, strangers, sojourners looking forward to a heavenly city. Though their former life was riddled with all kinds of sin & evil expelling them from the people of God, in Christ they chosen by God through their obedient acceptance of the Son.

It is upon this rich heritage that we stand. By doing what they did we get what they got and become what they were: elect exiles. Select sojourners. Chosen transients. Though we may have lived in the same city our whole life or have traveled hither & yon as citizens of the world, spiritually we are “just a-passin’ through” with our treasures “laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Though our former lives were uncontrollable messes broken by sin, in Christ we have learned self-control by upholding the ethic of this spiritual kingdom we have elected to join. We, like our brethren of the 1st century, are elect exiles living under empire.

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.

According to…the Father: The election of these exiles is according to the foreknowledge (Gk prognosis) of the Father. God knew in advance there would be “a chosen race” (selected strangers) formed around Christ (who Himself was “foreknown before the foundation of the world,” 1.20), called into being based upon their response to Christ. “God foreknew that he would send Christ and save those who accepted him” (Black & Black 31).

What does it mean to be “elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”? What is included in God’s foreknowledge, viz. what He knows beforehand? Does God know who will be saved & who won’t be saved? If He does not, does that infringe upon His omniscience? If He does know, does He also will men to these predetermined ends? There are those who argue that He does for “we cannot separate foreknowledge and predestination; the foreknowledge of an Almighty Creator must imply the exercise of choice and will” (Caffin 2). Therefore, what God knows He also wills.

Wayne Grudem suggests that the whole phrase “elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, etc.” is what is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” So “their status as sojourners, their privileges as God’s chosen people, even their hostile environment in [Asia Minor], were all known by God before the world began, all came about in accordance with his foreknowledge, and thus (we may conclude) all were in accordance with his fatherly love for his own people” (50). Imagine what comfort & peace of mind this would have brought to these persecuted Christians. Everything was under the control of a loving Father, nothing was left to chance.

In the same way, we are elect exiles in the Central Valley (or wherever you find yourself) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It is no accident that we live where we live, that we are sojourners on this earth, and that we are the chosen people of God. Rest assured that there is a grand master plan for life, even your life right where you are. See Acts 17.26-27.

In sanctification of the Spirit: or “by the sanctification of the Spirit.” That is, the Holy Spirit set these peoples of Asia Minor apart as God’s chosen people. The Spirit made them holy unto God. Cf. 2 Thess 2.13. Sanctification or to be set apart was always for a purpose, viz. service. The Holy Spirit both sets Christians apart for service & enables them to perform that service.

If the Father’s foreknowledge reaches into eternity past, the Spirit’s sanctification is a present reality. He is setting us apart more & more to look like Christ in holiness, faith, and conduct. “The unseen, unheard activity of God’s Holy Spirit surrounds [these elect exiles] almost like a spiritual atmosphere ‘in’ which they live and breathe, turning every circumstance, every sorrow, every hardship into a tool for his patient sanctifying work” (Grudem 52).

For obedience…His blood: For indicates this is the end or design of God’s plan. Both the human (obedience) and divine (sprinkling) sides of redemption are pictured here.

Obedience & sprinkling, then, looks forward to the future. The Christian’s life ought to be leading toward more & more obedience to Christ. Daily our obedience to Lord Jesus should increase. But it is also the Christian’s imperfect experience which reminds that obedience is often incomplete. So the blood of Jesus Christ is necessary to sprinkle our afflicted & guilty conscience. Thus the faithful Christian life is marked by obedience whose failings are cleansed by the blood of Christ. It is daily continual obedience & forgiveness.

May grace…to you:  Both the Greek (grace) & Hebrew (peace or shalom) forms of salutation are combined here. Peter wants the grace & peace of God to be ever increasing for these Christians.

Note: The whole Godhead is involved in the work of salvation. The Father determined beforehand, the Spirit sanctifies, & the Son sprinkles clean the obedient.

1 Peter – Introductory Material

Destination & Recipients

The epistles is addressed to “those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1.1). These Roman provinces covered all but the southernmost part of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Estimates suggest that the total population of this territory was approximately 8.5 million with 1 million Jews and 80,000 Christians by the end of the first century. These provinces embraced a large area of land as well as a very large population. That all of these provinces are mentioned is a testament to the enormous missionary activities of the early church.

The church in Asia Minor perhaps began some 30 years before Peter wrote this epistle when representatives of three of these places (Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia) who were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost heard Peter’s sermon, believed it, and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2.9). They then went back home, forming the nucleus of the church, and served as a hub for evangelistic efforts to Galatia & Bithynia. While this takes place, the apostle Paul on his 1st & 2nd missionary journeys plants and establishes churches in these areas either directly (as is the case with Galatia, Acts 14; 16.6) or indirectly (as is the case with Bithynia, Acts 19.10).

The actual composition of the churches in this area is debated. Were these predominately Jewish audiences? Were they predominately Gentile congregations? Or were they a mixture of both Jew & Gentile? While the overwhelming use of Old Testament texts might hint at a largely Jewish congregation, much of the language also indicates that there were many Gentiles, viz. the past Gentile immorality of 4.3. Their previous condition of being “not a people” – outside of the covenant – would also indicate that there was a heavy Gentile membership. Therefore, it seems reasonable that these were mixed congregations of the Lord’s people located all around Asia Minor.

Author

As with all of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is the supreme hand behind the pen of any of wrote the books of the Bible. In this case, He oversaw the work of “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ … and a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1.1; 5.1). This epistle clearly claims to be written by the apostle people who was a witness of the Incarnation of Christ, especially His death (cf. 1.11; 2.23-24; 4.1; 5.1). Peter was apparently helped by Silvanus (also known as Silas in Paul’s letters) in the writing process (5.12). That is, he served as an amanuensis or secretary for Peter. Perhaps John Mark spurred Peter, encouraging him to write this epistle (5.13). Mark himself was surely helped along in his writing of the gospel narrative which bears his name by Peter; maybe he returned the favor.

Peter, of course, was the de facto leader of the apostles, named first in every list (Matt 10.2; Mark 3.16; Luke 6.14; Acts 1.13). He appears to the spokesman for the group on several occasions (Matt 16.13-16; Acts 2.14). Paul calls him one of “those who seemed to be influential” and one of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church when he began his ministry (Galatians 2.6-9). Peter is prominent in the opening chapters of Acts (1-12) and in the Jerusalem conference (ch. 15). Following the conference, though, he is no longer mentioned in Acts. His missionary efforts may have taken him deep into Gentile territory. In point of fact, tradition says Peter went to Rome and spent his last days there, having been martyred by Nero.

Time & Place of Composition

Lenski puts the writing of this epistle in the final year of Peter’s life, not long before he meets a martyr’s death under Nero in the year 64 AD. This is pretty well uniform among scholars although some push Peter’s martyrdom, though not necessarily the composition of this epistle, later into the 60s.

This epistle originated “at Babylon” (5.13). There are three possible options for this location: 1) Babylon in Mesopotamia, 2) a Roman military settlement at Cairo, Egypt, named Babylon, or 3) Rome. Rome is poetically pictured as “Babylon” in several Jewish works (i.e. 4 Ezdras & 2 Baruch) as well as in the Revelation (17.5; 18.2). In addition, the evidence is reasonably good that Peter lived and died in Rome. Further, the order of the destination in 1.1 indicates a circulation route originating in the West, viz. from Rome. The letter bearer would have arrived at and departed from the north shores of Pontus-Bithynia. Add to this that the city of Babylon no longer existed and there is not a hint of tradition which indicates Peter went into the distant east only serves to solidify the notion that “Babylon” is a figure for Rome.

Main Emphases & Theme

Salvation, submission, and suffering are main emphases of Peter. All of these revolve around and center in God’s grace. First, you have been saved (past), you are saved (present), and you will be saved (future). Second, in light of your salvation, submit to governing authorities, employers, spouses, one another, and, well, everyone. Third, be prepared to suffer for being a Christian. So stand firm & hope fully in God’s grace as sojourners & strangers living under empire.