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TEXT: I Peter 1:1-2
SUBJECT: I Peter #1: What We Are--and Why
Have you heard the old joke?
A survey taker knocks on a door and asks the man, 'What is America's number one problem: Ignorance or apathy?'
The man replies, 'I don't know and I don't care'.
The old joke is still with us because it is so true to life. Other than their immediate concerns, most Americans are terribly ignorant and apathetic. They don't know what's going on in their country and the world, and they don't care.
At one time, there was no need to know what was going on, because the average person had no say in it. Kings or Prime Ministers made all the decisions, and didn't care if the common man approved of them or not. In a democratic age, however, our leaders do care what we think--not because they're more open-minded than their predecessors--but because their office and power depend on our votes. They've got to keep 51% of the people happy (or fooled)--or they're out.
If Americans were better informed and more interested in politics, therefore, we'd have a government, and that would be good. Ignorance and apathy are enemies of the American people.
What's true of the American people goes double for the people of God. Most of us 'don't know and don't care'. Don't know or care about what? What we are and what we have in Christ.
God wants us to know what He's done for us, because when we do, we fulfill man's chief end, which is to--
Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
There are two ways of finding out what God has done for us--the hard way and the easy way. Nobody worked harder than my late father, but he always told me, 'If there's an easy way to do a thing and a hard way, do it the easy way'. He didn't believe in working for the sake of working: He worked to build the house, to remodel the kitchen or to make the furniture.
I don't have the work ethic he did, but if given the choice between scanning the whole Bible to compile a long list of what we have in Christ, and getting the same results from reading just two verses, (informed by the whole Bible) I choose the latter!
This is what we have today in the first two verses of I Peter. In just a few lines, we have a very fine summary of what God has done for us. Knowing this is going to largely dispel our ignorance, and fire our hearts with love and gratitude. So let's get to it, and may the Holy Spirit guide our minds into all truth and move our hearts, for Christ's sake. Amen.
PETER, AN APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST
We often call I Peter a book; I do it myself, and you know what I mean. But, in fact, it isn't a book or even a tract. It's a letter written by a real man to a particular people, some of whom he knew personally. Following the custom of letter writing in that part of the world at the time, it starts with a signature. We sign at the end of our letters, they signed at the beginning.
The name was well known and deeply respected at the time, and now. The writer is Peter. He was a fisherman by trade, but one day, while he and his partners were mending their nets, they were called to give up 'fishing for fish' to become fishers of men.
It was a rabbi who called them to give up the trade for the ministry, and that was a fairly common thing in Israel. But Peter's authority in the church was not the result of being called to the ministry; it came from the One who called him.
It was Jesus of Nazareth who put Peter and his friends into the ministry, and, while He was a rabbi, that's not all He was--or is.
Jesus, Peter says, is The Christ. This was a word well known to the world, and to the Jews in particular. It means the Anointed, or, perhaps better than that, it means The Chosen. Not in the general sense that all Christians are chosen, but in a very special way.
Jesus was--and is--God's unique choice. No one else could be or do what He is and does. He is the Son of God, the King of Israel, the Head of the Church, and--
The Name which is above every name.
Like our own, Roman coins featured a leader of the country, a Caesar. Under his image, the coins often said, 'Lord and Savior' or 'Savior of the World'. The titles they took for themselves, was given to Jesus--and it was God who conferred them!
No one can read his life without realizing that Peter was a natural leader of men: strong, pious, intelligent. But his authority did not come from himself; it came from Jesus Christ.
Peter is an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
The word, Apostle, simply means 'messenger', because that's what an apostle did, he carried a message from the one who gave it to the ones he gave it to. There is nothing distinctly religious in the word itself.
But in the Early Church, the word took on a special significance. There were many preachers, teachers, evangelists, and prophets at the time, and all of the true ones 'spoke for God'. But none had the authority of an Apostle. The men were not special, but their office was, and Jesus promised His Spirit to them so that they would accurately remember and repeat--
All things which I said to you.
This was the first test the Church applied to so-called 'Inspired writings'. Did an Apostle or his assistant write it? If so, it was accepted as the Word of God, equal to the rest of the Bible; if not, it was given a lower rank. It might be a good book, but that's all it was: a good book, but not the Word of God.
Peter calls himself an Apostle (in the fullest sense of the word), and nobody in the First Century disputed his claim. Even Paul, with whom he clashed in Galatia, took him for an Apostle and called him a-
Pillar in the church.
The fact that Peter wrote I Peter means it is the Word of God. Not because Peter was smarter or more charismatic than anyone else, but because he was an Apostle, and these men, like the prophets of old--
Spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
So, who wrote the Epistle? Peter did. And, in what capacity did he write it? Not as a private individual or even a mature and loving pastor. He wrote it as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, a man sent from the Lord to deliver His Word.
TO THE PILGRIMS OF THE DISPERSION
He sent his letter to people living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These are provinces in the Roman Empire, mostly in today's Turkey.
These were the people he wrote to, but you notice he doesn't call them 'people', or even more familiar names such as 'Brothers and Sisters', or 'Friends'.
He calls them--
Pilgrims of the Dispersion.
The Greek text of this verse is somewhat different than what most of our English Bibles say. The translators, I'm sure, were tying to make it clearer and more readable, but I'm not sure they've done that. The middle of v.1 actually says--
To the elect (or, chosen) pilgrims of the Dispersion.
When Peter thinks of the brethren, the first thing he thinks of is, 'God chose them'. This must have helped him keep a good attitude when they disappointed him, but chiefly he calls them this to encourage them.
He says, 'Of all the people in the world, God chose-- you'. Not somebody else, but you. This tells us who we are and why we are Christians.
We didn't choose God, God chose us. We're not Christians because we decided to follow Jesus (though we did do that); we are Christians because God set His eternal love on us, a love that has nothing to do with how good or worthy or deserving we were.
Paul says we weren't good, worthy, or deserving, but rather--
Foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating others.
The list does not describe unusually bad Christians, but all Christians, including Christians like me who grew up in church and was 'a good boy'.
Nobody deserves to be chosen by God. It's a gift, freely given, to people who don't have it coming.
Because Christians are chosen by God, they're also pilgrims, or, as some translate the word, sojourners. What does this mean? It means we're not home; we're somebody else's country--or to keep my theology straight--we're living in somebody else's time.
Philippians 3:20 says--
Our citizenship is in Heaven.
This doesn't mean we're going to live up in the sky somewhere, or in some other galaxy far away. No, in the most literal sense of the words--
The meek will inherit the earth.
But what earth? The earth as it is now, shot full of sin and suffering and death? No, it is the renewed earth that will be our home forever, an earth like it was before the Fall only better.
Most of us live in the country in which we were born, but, at the same time, every Christian is from another country and is heading back there. This is not a new idea; Peter didn't come up with it on his own. As a devout Jew, he knew the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob well.
God had given them the Promised Land, but they lived their whole lives in the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, and all the rest. The land belonged to them, but at the moment, somebody else had it.
The same is true for us. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, and united to Him by faith, it belongs to us as well. But, at the moment, it is mostly occupied and ruled by Satan and his cursed offspring. One day, things will be set right, but until then, like our fathers, we confess--
We are strangers and pilgrims in the land.
This is why the world seems so wrong to you. I know age has something to do with it. When I was a boy, it seems to me, society was better than it is now. We had the freedom to ride out bikes across town and shoot BB guns in the park, but not to look at pornography at the library!
Today, it's the other way around: innocent pleasures are forbidden and guilty ones permitted. You don't have to be a Christian to feel this way; every older person does!
But what many people feel today is only the tip of the iceberg. Christians know what's underneath the tip. The world is under Satan's spell and people who were meant to live good lives and never die, in fact, live bad lives and die. Things are upside down, that's why we're not at home at home!
We are pilgrims.
Peter adds to this by saying we're pilgrims--
Of the Dispersion.
The Jews gave us this word. In the First Century, like today, most Jews did not live in Israel. Though they kept their identity as Jews, they were scattered all over the Roman Empire.
From this word, some scholars think Peter was writing to Jewish Christians only. This, however, is not true, because, under the New Covenant, the multi-ethnic Church has become--
The Israel of God.
ELECT ACCORDING TO THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, IN SANCTIFICATION OF THE SPIRIT, FOR OBEDIENCE AND SPRINKLING OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
In a single verse, using the customary formula of the day, Peter has told us what we are, and what we have in Christ. But, knowing how slow we are on the uptake, he more-or-less repeats himself in v.2.
God chose us--he says--
According to His foreknowledge.
This is a line that Christians have disputed for a very long time and not always too politely.
Some brethren believe that God's choice of whom to saved is based on 'knowing ahead of time that they would believe, and, so knowing they would do their part, He did His'. This is the classic Arminian position, though Norman Geisler, for some reason, calls it, Moderate Calvinism. I do not believe this.
Others say that what God foreknew was not 'that some people would later believe in Christ and which ones would do it', but, rather, 'the people themselves'. Foreknowledge, therefore, means more than 'knowing ahead of time'; it means that, but also favoring them, as He did Israel. Wayne Grudem says it means--
Knowing a people with a personal, loving, fatherly knowledge.
This is the side I come down on, but I also believe there's more to it than this. Again, following Grudem, I believe what Peter's saying here is that God foreknew, not only us, but that we would be--
Pilgrims of the Dispersion.
In other words, God not only chose us to be His people, He chose us to be His Pilgrim people. He could have chosen us for glory right now; but He didn't do that. He chose us to live in a fallen world, both to humble and sanctify us, and to be the light of the world, to carry the Good News to our neighbors and so--
Bless all the families of the earth.
In order to be the blessing He wants us to be, we have to live holy lives, and He's equipped us for that by--
Sanctifying us through the Spirit.
The Father who chooses us for salvation, doesn't leave it up to us; the supplies the Spirit who produces obedience and love in our hearts and lives.
Speaking of obedience, that's what we're chosen for--
We're not just chosen to serve God when we get to Heaven, but to serve Him now on earth. The power to do it is not in us by nature; it has to be given to us from Heaven, and that's what God's choice guarantees and the Holy Spirit effects.
And then we come to--to me, at least--the most puzzling part of the Greeting. We are chosen for obedience and--
Sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
God chose to save us, and that choice demanded the death of Christ in our place. That's a true doctrine, but it doesn't seem to be the meaning of v.2. If it were, it would come before the Spirit's sanctification and our own obedience.
We are not obedient before the coming of the Spirit and the Spirit does not come until an Atonement is made for our sins. It just seems out of order...
...Until you remember that the blood of Christ not only cancels our guilt, but washes us clean from all our sins. We are more obedient than we used to be, but even the best man admits he's still very sinful. If all his guilt was wiped away when he believed, he is far from entirely clean!
Peter knew this from personal experience. When Jesus tried to wash his feet, Peter was deeply offended! But when Jesus reminded him that, unless He washes his feet, he has no part in Him, Peter blurted out--
Lord, not my feet only, but also my head and my hands!
What did our Lord say to him? John 13:10--
He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely cleaned.
And so, God has chosen us to be completely clean--not only from what we did before we were converted, but what we do every day after. Thus, He has chosen us to be washed every day, in the only solvent that removes our stain--
The blood of Jesus Christ.
We wonder if God can forgive all we do against Him and others. If we only did it once, He might forgive us, but we do it again and again. Can He keep on cleansing us from all iniquity? He can, God has chosen us to be washed every day, until there is--
No spot in us.
Total cleanness awaits the Second Coming of Christ, and though we long for that day, we can also wait for it, knowing it's coming, that God has planned it before He made the world, and will bring it to pass.
GRACE AND PEACE BE MULTIPLIED TO YOU
Having told us who we are, Peter wishes us more of the same--
Grace and peace be multiplied to you.
We have so much in Christ already that it seems impossible to get any more, but Peter assumes we will get more, and not just a little more, but that the grace and peace God has already given us will be multiplied by infinity--
How vast the benefits Divine,
which we in Christ possess!
Like the American people in general, we are ignorant and apathetic. We don't know what God has done for us, and we don't care. But if only we knew, we would care; if only we knew all God has for us, we'd see our trifling problems on earth for the trifling things they are. And we'd be content, grateful, and have a--
Joy unspeakable and full of glory.
No man can get this into your heads: not me, not even Peter can do it. But the Holy Spirit can, and wants to! He wants to glorify Christ, and there's no better way of doing it than by making us the aware and grateful disciples we ought to be. And so,
Open my eyes,
that I may behold,
wondrous things out of
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