The Second in a Series of Sermons on 1 Peter
Why does God allow his people to find themselves as aliens and strangers in their own land? How do Christians find joy in times of trial and suffering? What purpose can there in suffering such as this? Peter will seek to answer these questions by pointing his struggling readers and hearers back to the promises God makes to us in the gospel. We have been given a living hope grounded in the same power through which God raised Jesus from the dead, a hope to be realized in part in this life, but fully in the next. This hope is not just so many words, but is grounded in the fact that what the Old Testament prophets (and even angels) longed to see, has come to pass in the person and work of Jesus Christ and now the basis of the living hope promised to the people of God.
We continue with our new series on 1 Peter by undertaking a brief review of the ground we covered last time (Peter’s greeting in vv. 1-2), before we turn to our text (vv. 3-12), which is the Apostle Peter’s opening words of encouragement to the elect exiles of the Diaspora in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). As we saw last time–I would encourage you to listen to last week’s introductory sermon on the church website or my blog–Peter is writing to Christians and Jews throughout much of Asia Minor, many of whom had been uprooted from their homes by a decree from the Roman emperor Claudius, which granted land in this region to retired Roman soldiers. Many of those uprooted by Claudius’ decree were Christians (both Jewish and Gentile) who were viewed as exiles in their own land because they refused to worship the Roman gods (including Claudius), and because they would not participate in local pagan religious rituals, many of which were part of daily life in the Greco-Roman world.
The Apostle opens this letter by declaring, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” The Christians throughout the provinces mentioned were persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Although hated by their neighbors because of their Christian faith, Peter tells them they can take great comfort in the fact that they are loved by God who has chosen them in Jesus Christ, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Foreknowledge is not merely God’s knowledge of what will happen in the future, but refers to God’s intimate knowledge of the individuals whom he has chosen to save through the merits of Jesus Christ. God knows each of these people personally. He knows their trials and their suffering.
These “elect exiles,” as Peter identifies them, are chosen by God and said to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of “obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” Although Peter’s audience are now exiles in their own land, God has called his elect out from pagan darkness into the wonderful light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The primary meaning of “sanctified” as used here by Peter means to be set apart by God for his purposes. In this case, those called by God through the gospel are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus (the guilt of their sins is washed away) and are set apart for obedience to Jesus, the one who saves them from their sins.
Peter’s greeting to these elect exiles is overtly Trinitarian. God’s people are not merely theists, but they are believers in the one true God who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their belief in the Triune God, as well as salvation by the merits of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, marks these exiles off as citizens of a heavenly kingdom. They may live as exiles in the civil kingdom with its joys, duties, and dangers, yet they possess a heavenly citizenship for which they long, and which gives this life meaning and purpose. These elect exiles need to know that whatever suffering and persecution they experience during their time in exile during the Diaspora is actually preparing them to receive all of the benefits of their heavenly citizenship by strengthening their faith.
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