By Spencer D Gear
‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according 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’.
Have you witnessed to your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and experienced this kind of reaction? Comments like:
- “I don’t want to listen to that nonsense. You’ve got to be joking. Just take a look at all those religious paedophiles who have sexually abused children placed in their trust.” OR
- “Christian! Huh! Hypocrites, that’s all they are. Remember Jimmy Swaggart and his prostitute? Jim Bakker, high flying TV evangelist jailed for 45 years for fraud–and, of course, there was adultery? Don’t mention the church to me.” OR
- How can I believe in your God of love with so much evil in the world? Hitler and your God allowed all that! Sadam Hussein & what he did to Iraq.
In the language of some of the kids I counselled in the 17 years before I retired, “Life sucks.” You may get to the point of asking yourself, “Is it worth it? I should chuck this in.”
For those who are tempted to chuck it in, this Book of I Peter has some profound things to teach, to encourage you to keep on keeping on, and NOT to give up when the going gets tough.
Before we examine this wonderful encouragement, we need to note:
2. SOME THINGS ABOUT THE BOOK OF 1 PETER 
- First verse, it claims to be from “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). Sounds pretty straight-forward. Peter the Apostle wrote it. Yet some liberal scholars promote the view “that First Peter is a pseudonymous [false] work of the post-Apostolic Age . . . [Peter] could not have written the letter.”  Why do they claim this is not the apostle Peter who wrote, but a person who falsely used the name of Peter? Because these scholars want us to believe that the “persecutions mentioned in the book” are “those of the reign of [Roman Emperor] Trajan (98-117).” 
- If we make the writing as late as during the reign of Trajan, it would be 70-90 years after the death of Christ and Peter could not have written the book, as he was probably dead. Then somebody from the early church, not the real Peter, wrote the book.
- NO, NO, NO! This Peter, 1 Peter 5:1 says, was the one who was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” This is no fake Peter, but the apostle Peter, who was Christ’s apostle, denied him 3 times, and was there as an eyewitness of Christ’s death. Why do these liberal theologians invent such things? Here is a link to the non-canonical, apocryphal Gospel of Peter (Raymond Brown translation).
- 5:12, he wrote it “with the help of Silas/Silvanus . . . a faithful brother.” This is probably the Silas of Acts 15:22; 1 Thess. 1:1;
- When was this book written? If you read 2 Peter 3:1, it speaks of “This is now my second letter to you.” Perhaps this is referring back to 1 Peter as the first letter. There’s a writing from the early church called I Clement (5:4-7), written by Clement of Rome to the Corinthian church, written about A.D. 96. It speaks of Peter and Paul as suffering persecution.
This probably refers to the persecution under Emperor Nero  of Rome following the fire that destroyed Rome in AD 64. 1 Peter “was probably written from Rome shortly before Nero’s great persecution — that is, in 62-64.” 
- Peter says that he wrote the book from “Babylon” (5:13). This is probably “a code word for Rome”  if you look at verses such as Rev. 14:8; 17:5, 18.
- Who received this letter? Verse 1, ” To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” These were cities in northern Asia Minor, what is known as Turkey today. It was written to God’s people who were scattered, for some reason, across Turkey. If you read 1 Peter 4: 3-4, it suggests that these believers had probably “been converted out of paganism rather than out of Judaism.” 
- I Peter 4:3, ” For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”
- Why did Peter write this letter?
It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered. I Peter 5:12, ” I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”
- These Christians shared a common faith;
- But they faced common problems. Their basic problem was that they lived in a society that was ignorant of the true and living God (sounds like Australia today);
- As Christians, they would be misunderstood and given some cruel treatment;
- Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.” 
- This is a very practical and relevant message for us in Queensland in the 21st century.
In this passage we are considering, Peter urges his readers and he exhorts us here in Australia:
DON’T CHUCK IT IN BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD (vv. 1-2).
DON’T CHUCK IT IN BECAUSE OF THE INCREDIBLE BLESSINGS YOU HAVE RECEIVED (vv. 3-5)
DON’T CHUCK IT IN BECAUSE GOD CAN TAKE THE JUNK IN YOUR LIFE AND TURN IT INTO GOLD (vv. 6-7)
DON’T CHUCK IT IN BECAUSE YOU LIVE BY A LAW THAT BAFFLES THIS WORLD. (vv. 8-9)
First, there is hope for your life no matter how bleak the circumstances. We’ll only have time to look at the first 2 verses today.
1 Peter 1:1-2 (NIV):
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
3. DON’T CHUCK IT IN BECAUSE YOU ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD (vv. 1-2)
Christian believers, don’t give up because you are:
A. GOD’S ELECT
As the church of the living God, remember who you are in Christ. Peter says you are “God’s elect” (literally, he wrote “to the chosen strangers”) [v. 1]. Not “to the chosen one” but “to the chosen ones (plural, the church). We see this also in v. 2: You have been “chosen” by God.
In fact this whole book of 1 Peter revolves around who you are in Christ and what is expected of you as believers. Chapter 2:9 addresses the believers then and us now: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.”
Before Peter gets to talk about who you are in the world and what things might happen to you in a hostile culture like Asia Minor and like Australia, he reminds us of our relationship to God the Father: you are “God’s elect.”
The concept of chosen or elect people comes originally from the OT. In Deut. 14:2, Moses told the tribes of Israel, “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Isaiah often spoke of Israel “whom I have chosen” (Isa. 41:8; 44:1; 45:4).
But here Peter shifts this thought to the Christian community. We, the born-again people of God–the church–are the elect. In fact, Gal. 6:16 calls the church “the Israel of God.”
How is it possible for people who were enemies of God, rebels and hostile towards Him, to be chosen by God? How could this take place?
Are you one of God’s elect? I had experience with two different funerals this month. I went to one funeral and he was preached into heaven with all Christians. I knew the fellow. He was a nice guy, but in my experience he never gave evidence of knowing the Lord Jesus personally. I left that funeral, saying to myself: “I must live so that the preacher can tell the truth at my funeral.”
The other funeral I did not attend because it was held on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. I received this information from Maranatha Christian Journal by email:
“How June Carter Cash’s faith in God impacted others was a common thread that ran through the funeral service in her honor at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., May 18 .
“A lot of great things will be said about June today, but the greatest thing that can be said about her and about anyone is that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Glenn Weekley, pastor of First Baptist [Church] Hendersonville, where Cash was a member.
“I’m so thrilled to be able to stand here today, knowing that June had that personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I think she would make sure all of us know that she is in glory today not because of any deeds she did but because of the deed Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago when He laid down His life on Calvary.” 
“[June Carter] Cash, a member of the [country music’s] legendary Carter Family and wife of Johnny Cash, died May 15  at age 73 following complications from heart surgery. Among the nearly 2,000 people gathered for her funeral were musicians, actors and others Cash had reached in her lifetime.” 
The apostle Peter wants you to remember who you are! It’s a great honour for the church to be chosen by God. But you are elected by God, not to be pompous and proud about it, but God elects you for a purpose. The teaching on election is not something to be scared about, but at times it has generated more heat than light in Calvinist vs. Arminian debates. Believers are called “God’s elect.”
Why? Because that’s who they are. But it is also to bring them comfort and to encourage them. We see in v. 6 that these Christians were going to experience “all kinds of trials.” While all true believers are God’s elect, they are also
(1) “Strangers in the world” (NIV).
The original language does not include “in the world” but the idea is there. Other translations call them & us “aliens” (NASB, REB, NJB), “exiles” (NRSV, ESV), “refugees” (GNB), “sojourners” (NAB).
The idea is this: the chosen people of God are
“Persons who belong to some other land and people, who are temporarily residing with a people to whom they do not belong. They are for a time being aliens, foreigners, strangers and not natives. They never expect to become [naturalised citizens of this world]. They do not want to be considered or treated as natives by the… people among whom they happen to be living…
“Aliens are often held in contempt by the natives among whom they dwell. To this day they may be placed under severe restrictions in times of war; they may be [thrown into prison] or even repatriated.” 
Yet, despite this treatment by the people living in this world, Peter exalts true believers far above the citizens of this world. You are “God’s chosen people” while the people among whom you live are nothing of the sort. “In fact, God’s election has made the Christians `foreigners’ to the rest. At one time [you] were common natives and lived on the same low level as the rest.”  You are not like that any longer.
We “live in the world but are no longer of the world. [We] have become like Abraham, [we] are merely sojourners in a land that is now strange to [us]. [We] look for a city which has foundations, whose designer and maker is God; heaven is [out] home and fatherland.” 
We are strangers here in Australia. Our desire is for a better country, a heavenly one, the city that God has prepared for us (see Heb. 11:9-16).
Don’t you feel like this sometimes? You are out of step with the direction the world is taking. You walk to the beat of a different drum. This is the way God wants it to be.
You know why there is so much crime and violence in our country. It’s not just because of a poor home environment or poverty. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). In the words of Jesus: “For from within, our of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness [that’s lack of self control with sinful behaviour], envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean’” (Mark 7:21-22).
We could talk about what’s happening to the morality of the nation. As believers, our diagnosis should be radically different from the world’s. So would be your recommended treatment. Don’t be surprised if you feel like a fish out of water in this putrid age. You are.
When it seems as though the world is smothering you with its wretched solutions to the sinful dilemma. Peter encourages us: don’t chuck it in. To keep you strong and help you not to cave in and give up, Peter reminds you of this solid assurance that you, the church, were set apart by God. You are God’s elected chosen people. This is who you are. You are not an accident of history or some weirdos. You are people chosen by God for a purpose.
But this blessed doctrine of election has caused much heartburn in the church for centuries with statements like this from a leading theologian today:
“From all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish. God made a choice–He chose some individuals to be saved into everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over, to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell… The elect do choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God… The non-elect receive justice. The elect receive mercy.” 
This is, I believe, an unbiblical view. It is quite popular in some quarters of the evangelical church today and mostly since the time of the Reformation. But it has caused unnecessary concern.
This view of God choosing you for salvation and damning others–the majority of the world–makes God sound like an unjust, ugly monster. Opening the door for you, by his sovereign act, but giving most of the world the flick into a hell of horror. To me this is not consistent with the attributes of the God of the Bible.
First Peter makes it clear what God has in mind when he speaks of election. Believers are chosen:
(2) “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (v. 2);
Pause with me a moment to look at what God means by his prognwsis, foreknowledge, omniscience. Literally, it means “knowledge beforehand.” 
For God, that means:
- he and only he knows Himself and all other people and things.
- He knows whether they are things that actually happen, will happen, or are merely possible;
- God knows comprehensively and completely about people and things in the past, present and future;
- God knows perfectly and from all eternity.
- God knows all people and things at the same time, exhaustively and truly. 
Let’s look at a sample of how much God knows about you, everybody, our world, and about Himself.
- Proverbs 15:3 (ESV), “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
- Jeremiah 23:23-25 (ESV): “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’
- Hebrews 4:13 (ESV): “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
- Matthew 10:30 (ESV), “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” For some of us men that is a challenge, but not to God
We don’t have time to look at all of the Scriptures, but we need to note God’s foreknowledge means that:
- God knows himself (the Trinity) intimately and only he knows himself (see Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:11);
- God knows things that are actually existing:
- The inanimate creation (Ps. 147:4);
- People and all of their works (Ps. 33:13-15);
- People’s thoughts and hearts (Ps. 139:1-4);
- God knows your needs (Matt. 6:8, 32);
God not only knows things in the past and present, but he also knows all things that are possible:
- He knew that Keilah would betray David to Saul, if he remained in that vicinity (I Sam. 23:11-12);
- Jesus knew that Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they had seen the miracles that were performed in Bethsaida and Chorazin (Matt. 11:21);
- Jesus knew that Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared disaster if they had seen the works that were done in Capernaum (Matt. 11:23-24).
God’s foreknowledge means that he knows the future. But we need to understand that from a person’s “standpoint God’s knowledge of the future is foreknowledge, but not from God’s [point of view] since He knows all things by one simultaneous intuition. He foreknows:
- the future in general [Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV) remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’”
- God foreknows the future in general (also Dan. 2, 7; Matt. 24-25; Acts 15:18), but he also foreknew the evil course that the nation of Israel would take (Deut. 31:20-21);
- He foreknew the coming and the work of Cyrus (Isa. 44:26-45:7);
- He foreknew the coming of the Messiah (Micah 5:2) and that
- Wicked men would crucify him (Acts 2:23; 3:18, etc.) 
So, Peter’s readers were “elect/chosen” believers “according to the foreknowledge of God.” God knew beforehand what they (and we) would do with the proclamation of the Gospel. Would they respond or reject Christ? We know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” [Romans 10:17 (ESV)]. But we can’t come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit draws us.
Remember Peter, the apostle preaching the gospel to the household of Cornelius.
- In Acts 10:44 (ESV), “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.”
- Jesus said: John 6:44 (ESV), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
Let’s get back to I Peter 1:1-2.
Peter is not talking about how you as an individual person became a Christian and why others have not come to Christ. Peter is speaking to us as Christians and about God’s plan for us and how it happens. The “foreknowledge of God the Father” means that God knew ahead of time what we were like and what we would do with his gracious offer of salvation in Christ. When God pledged to make you more like Jesus, he “knew what he was letting himself in for.” 
You are God’s elect with a special purpose in view. Here it is
(3) “By the sanctifying work of the Spirit” (v. 2);
(4) “For obedience to Jesus Christ” (v. 2).
(5) “And for sprinkling by his blood” (v. 2)
We’ll have to wait until another time to examine God’s special purposes.
For all believers in sanctification, obedience and “sprinkling by his blood” (what could that mean?)
Let’s make some applications to you and me as I draw to a close:
- Since God, in his foreknowledge, knows everything about you, what is your relationship with the king of Kings and Lord of Lords? Do you know him personally? Has the Gospel been clearly proclaimed to you and you have responded from the heart? If you DO NOT KNOW you are saved and will go to heaven immediately if you died today, please come to speak with me after the service. Where you are with God is the most important thing about you – and God knows your inner being. You can’t lie to him or fake it before him. Where are you with God?
- If you know the Lord and are growing in grace, you can expect opposition. We feel like and ARE “strangers in the world.” You should not feel at home in this world. If you have more in common with the world than the people of God, there is something radically wrong in your relationship with God. And it’s not God’s fault. What are you doing to ruin your relationship with God?
- Since trials and tribulations will come in this world, what incredible assurance it gives us to know that we are the “elect of God.” Chosen by God to be his sons and daughters as the blood-bought church of Jesus Christ.
- God knows you and me through and through. He knows the bottom of our hearts. There are no secrets before him. What would he be pleased and displeased about you and me today?
What about the TV programs, videos, and computer games you watch?
I remember a Christian family that sat in my counselling office a few years ago and said, “We don’t allow our kids to watch much TV. But they do enjoy, “Home and Away.” Have you ever watched that program and considered all of the values that are promoted that are contrary to God’s word and holy living? I think you’d be surprised.
- Would God be pleased about the content of your thought life this week? This year?
- Will you allow God’s Holy Spirit to search every aspect of your being and clean out whatever is not pleasing to him?
What are you rebelling about in God’s word? Folks, we ultimately have to answer to God Himself. What will he say about your life when you face him?
- If your thought life became visible before our eyes, what would you be ashamed of?
- Would Christ be pleased with what you have thought about this last week?
- Has your viewing been to the glory of God? I find it a very helpful question: If Jesus sat beside me, would he approve of the books and magazines I read?
- What about my conversation? Has your language been pleasing to God this week? To your wife, husband, kids, the boss, other employees, the person at the store?
- How have I treated other people this week? May the Lord convict you about what is not pleasing to Him and help you, starting today, to have these things sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- What will you be remembered for? Has God chosen you as a Christian believer? Are you one of God’s elect? Are you sure of that?
As I close, let me go back to the life and death of June Carter Cash. This was said at her funeral:
“Rosanne Cash was a stepdaughter to June Carter Cash, but she said June banished the words “stepdaughter” and “stepmother” from her vocabulary and accepted all the children as her own.
“In another testament of June’s character, Rosanne recalled how years ago she was sitting with June in the living room at home when the phone rang. June picked it up and started talking to someone, and after several minutes Rosanne wandered off to another room because it seemed she was deep in conversation. She went back 10 or 15 minutes later and June was still completely engrossed.
“I was sitting in the kitchen when she hung up a good 20 minutes later, and she had a big smile on her face, and she said, ‘I just had the nicest conversation,’” Rosanne said. “And she started telling me about this other woman’s life and her children and that she had just lost her father and where she lived and on and on. And I said, ‘Well, June, who was it?’ And she said, ‘Well, honey, it was a wrong number.’ That was June. In her eyes there were two kinds of people: those she knew and loved, and those she didn’t know and loved. She looked for the best in everyone. It was a way of life for her. . . She was forever lifting people up.”
“Rosanne Cash also said June’s great mission and passion in life were lifting up Johnny Cash. If being a wife were a corporation, she said, June would have been the CEO.
“It was her most treasured role. She began every day by saying, ‘What can I do for you, John?’ Her love filled up every room he was in, lit every path he walked, and her devotion created a sacred, exhilarating place for them to live out their married life. . .” 
What will the preacher say at your funeral?
From I Peter 1:1-2, Peter urges you to not chuck in your faith because of who you are in Christ:
- You are God’s elect;
- According to the foreknowledge of God the Father;
- And strangers in the world.
Hymn: Have Thine Own Way (hymnal.net)
2. These points are based on: Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 210-213.
3. Ibid., pp. 210-211.
4. Ibid., p. 211. B. C. Caffin states that Peter “must have written before the outbreak of any systematic attempt to crush out Christianity, or any legalized persecution such as that under Trajan. Judgment was about to begin at the house of God (ch. iv.17)”, I Peter, The Pulpit Commentary, Spence H.D.M. & Exell, J. S. (eds.), (Vol. 22), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1950, p. viii.
5. F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. Glasgow: Chapter House, 1988, p. 121, gives these details.
6. Blum, p. 212.
7. Caffin’s view is that “all this seems to point to the time of the Neronian persecution. Before that date, we gather from St. Paul’s Epistles, there was no actual persecution in Asia Minor” (p. viii).
8. Blum, p. 212.
11. Ibid., p. 213.
12. Erin Curry, May 19, 2003, Baptist Press, ‘June Carter Cash’s Christian faith, love for family remembered’ (Accessed 20 June 2012).
15. R.C.H. Lenski, An Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter, the three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966, p. 21.
16. Lenski, pp. 21-22.
17. Ibid., p. 22.
18. R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, pp. 161-62.
19. Thayer states that the verbal form, progin?sk?, means “to have knowledge of beforehand; to foreknow.” For the noun form he simply defined as “forethought, pre-arrangement” [Thayer, J. H. (transl, rev., enlarged) 1962, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 538]. Progin?sis, the noun, only appears twice in the NT at Acts 2:23 and I Peter 1:2.
20. Based on Thiessen, H. C. 1949, Introductory lectures in systematic theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 124.
21. The above Scriptures are based on ibid., pp. 125-126.
22. “June Carter Cash: Remembered At Funeral,” other bibliographic details are in note 12 above.
Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.