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The Addressees, Scattered Strangers
It is such an author who writes this book "To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" ( 1Pe_1:1 ). The ones addressed are strangers in that they no longer lived in their native land. At the time of Peter's writing, they lived in the Roman provinces in Asia Minor, which today is Turkey. In the LXX (Greek Old Testament), the word for dispersion was used for the Jews scattered to foreign nations (compare Joh_7:35 ). Here Peter seems to use it for the Christians who had been scattered by the persecution. It is good to also note 1:14 where Peter refers to his readers as those who formerly lusted in ignorance. Such would not ordinarily be used of Jews.
Certainly, they are members of the Lord's church because they are also called "elect" (1:2). Some would say the letter is only to those of Jewish background because Peter preached to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles ( Gal_2:9 ). However, that seems to stretch a point. Paul did not go exclusively to the Gentiles ( Act_13:5 ; Act_14:1 ). Why should we suppose Peter would go, or write, exclusively to the Jews? In fact, Peter describes them as those called "out of darkness into His marvelous light" and those who "once were not a people" (2:9-10). Would the Gentiles think it strange that Jews abstained from their sinful excesses (4:1-4)? These things point to the book being written to all Christians scattered abroad in the world.
The book was written when these Christians were experiencing persecution (1:6; 3:13-17; 4:12-19). They were suffering as Christians. The book was either written immediately before the start of Nero's encouragement of persecution directed through the provincial governors toward Christians, or during it, thus 64-65 A.D. Peter wrote the book with the purpose of encouraging them to stand fast for the truth (5:12). Knowing that Christ suffered quietly, though falsely charged, would encourage them to carry on (2:21-25). May all who read the book today find the same patient determination!
Thayer says elect means "picked out, chosen," and foreknowledge means "forethought, pre-arrangement." So, they were specially selected according to a plan God had previously made. Christians are chosen by God ( Joh_15:16-19 ). It is important to ask if this choosing is conditional, or unconditional. Since Peter goes on to indicate God does not have respect of persons, it must be concluded it is conditional based upon one's actions (1:17). One must be "in Christ" to receive all spiritual blessings. "In him" he is holy and without blame. He has redemption through "his blood." In Christ, "we have obtained an inheritance." In Christ Christians are "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" ( Eph_1:3-4 ; Eph_1:7 ; Eph_1:11 ; Eph_1:13 ). Obviously then, the selection is pre-planned by God in Christ. Whatever conditions found to being in Christ will also be conditions of one's being of the elect ( Gal_3:26-27 ; 1Jn_1:6-10 ; 1Jn_2:5-6 ; 1Jn_2:23-25 ).
Those picked-out ones are set apart of the Holy Spirit. Since Christians are sanctified by the word of God and it was the Holy Spirit who inspired men to write and speak the word, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit must take place when one obeys the word ( Joh_17:17 ; Joh_16:13 ; 2Pe_1:21 ). Christians are set apart unto obedience, that is, set apart to keep on obeying. Christ is going to punish those who do not keep on obeying the gospel ( 2Th_1:8 ). So also is Christ's blood set apart to continually cleanse his followers of those sins of ignorance into which they might fall ( 1Jn_1:7 ). To these elect ones, Peter would extend greetings with the words grace and peace ( 1Pe_1:2 ).
The word "blessed," which is used in 1Pe_1:3 , is not the word translated blessed in the beatitudes, which describes an inner happiness of the spiritual man. Instead, Thayer tells us it means "praised." It comes from the same Greek word from which the word eulogy comes (see also Rom_1:25 ; Rom_9:5 ; 2Co_1:3 and Eph_1:3 ).
God is to particularly be praised because of his great mercy which is displayed in Christians being allowed to be born again ( Joh_3:1-8 ; Rom_6:1-11 ; Jam_1:18 ). That birth is into a life with a hope that lives with real promise. Those in the church were without hope before they were born into Christ Jesus ( Eph_2:12-13 ). The word "again" is reminiscent of the apostles' lost hope on the night of Christ's crucifixion ( Luk_24:21 ). The Christians' hope is alive because Christ is alive from the grave and God can make them alive from the grave ( 1Co_15:16-20 ; 1Th_4:13-14 ).
Peter also describes the Christians' living hope as an inheritance, which is appropriate since verse 3 had talked of them being born like children into a family ( 1Pe_1:4 ; Act_20:32 ; Rom_8:13-17 ). Earthly inheritances are temporary and perishable ( Mat_6:19-20 ). The Christian's inheritance is permanent, lasting. It is also undefiled, in the sense that no sin or impurity will be allowed in heaven ( Rev_21:27 ). Woods says the words "that does not fade away" come from the Greek word "amarantos." "The amaranth was a fabled flower whose bloom was perpetual, and whose loveliness never failed." The Christians' inheritance, then, will not run out, nor will its beauty be lost with the passage of time. The word "reserved" comes from a Greek word which indicates a military guard is keeping watch over the inheritance which is in heaven. Christians do not possess eternal life while on earth except in God's promise. It is kept for those who faithfully pursue God's will ( 1Jn_2:25 ; Mar_10:28-30 ; Tit_1:2 ).
Just as a Christian's inheritance is guarded, so is the Christian guarded by God ( 1Pe_1:5 ; Rom_8:28 ; Php_4:7 ). God guards the Christian through his faith. It is essential to realize, as Peter did, that one's faith can fail. So, each should do all within his power to avoid such failing ( Luk_22:31-32 ; 1Ti_1:19-20 ; Heb_3:12 ). He should desire to keep that faith constant until the last time, or day of judgment, when his final, complete, salvation will be revealed.
Rejoicing Despite Trials
They rejoiced because of all the things listed in verses 3-5. They rejoiced though they were enduring a time of heaviness brought on by the trials they were experiencing. Of course, the apostles, Paul and Silas also rejoiced in trials suffered for the Lord ( Act_5:40-42 ; Act_16:23-25 ). Such rejoicing is possible because of Jesus' great promise in the sermon on the mount ( Mat_5:10-12 ). Verses such as Jam_4:14 and Heb_11:25 help one to understand the "little while" of this passage. Even if a Christian suffered throughout life, it would only be a little while compared to eternity ( 1Pe_1:6 ; 2Co_4:17 ).
All Christians want to receive Christ's praise in the day of judgment ( Mat_25:21 ; Mat_25:23 ; Mat_25:34-36 ); the honor of a crown of righteousness ( 2Ti_4:6-8 ); and the glory of living in heaven with God ( Rev_21:22-27 ). Because of that desire, the testing of one's faith is much more precious, or important, to him than the testing of gold. When gold goes through the fiery test, it comes out purified. The Christian's faith is very much like that gold ( 1Pe_1:7 ; Rom_5:3-5 ; 2Th_1:4-5 ; Jam_1:2-4 ).
The Ultimate Source of Rejoicing
After "Doubting" Thomas had seen the resurrected Jesus and proclaimed him as Lord, Jesus said, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" ( Joh_20:29 ). Those words seem to echo in his ears as Peter speaks to these scattered Christians who have never seen Jesus, yet love him. This love is agape love, "which indicates an intelligent and purposeful love. It is the love which recognizes its object for what it is; it is the love of consideration and care; it is the love of good will which desires to serve and to promote the best interests of its object" (Kelcy). Belief in Jesus had brought them to a joyful state. Included is that joy of close association with and knowledge of Jesus ( 1Pe_1:8 ; Act_8:39 ; Php_4:4-7 ; 2 Corinthians 3:18: 4:6 ). Of course, present day Christians also look forward to the glory of heaven.
The ultimate source of every Christian's rejoicing is heaven, the end result of faith. Christians have salvation from past sins ( Act_2:38 ; Act_2:47 ; Act_22:16 ); salvation in the present, so long as they are walking in the light ( 1Jn_1:7 ); and salvation in heaven ( 1Jn_2:25 ). Peter was likely speaking of the last of these, though all three certainly could be said to yield rejoicing ( 1Pe_1:9 ).
The Prophets Longed To Understand Salvation's Plan
Jesus may have referred to the prophets' desire to know about God's plan for the salvation of man when he spoke in Mat_13:16-17 and Luk_10:23-24 . These two verses give a unique glimpse of the nature of inspiration. Scripture plainly states that the prophets wrote as directed by the Holy Ghost ( 2Pe_1:20-21 ). Peter indicates they wrote some things they did not comprehend and searched their own writings diligently to gain some understanding. They dug deep in study to understand the salvation about which they wrote ( Isa_2:1-5 ; Isa_52:13-15 ; Psa_18:49 ; Hos_1:10 ; Hos_2:23 ). Of course, that salvation comes by grace, or unmerited favor. That grace was not for them, but for those who would live in the Christian age ( Heb_11:39-40 ). The prophets wanted to know when the events about which they prophesied would take place. Specifically, they wanted to know about the time of Christ's suffering and the glory that would follow it ( 1Pe_1:10-11 ; Isa_53:1-12 ; Psa_22:1-31 ; Psa_16:8-11 ).
The same Holy Spirit which inspired the Old Testament prophets also gave Paul, and others who preached in Asia Minor, the words to speak as they taught. Thus, the Holy Spirit foretold salvation's coming through the prophets and announced that it was here through the apostles. Peter says angels had an intense desire to know God's plan for man's salvation, so they stooped down to look closely into it ( 1Pe_1:12 ). Peter thus makes a case for the great value others placed on merely knowing about God's plan to take man to heaven. Those living under the law of Christ not only have such fully revealed to them, they also can enjoy the full reward!
Because Salvation Has Arrived
Once Peter made it plain how specially favored Christ's followers were to be able to know and participate in salvation's plan, he went on to appeal for those living under that promise to live holy lives. The people of those days would gird up their loins so they could work unencumbered. This would be much like a man taking off a suit coat to do some hard physical labor. While one cannot literally gird up his mind, he can prepare himself for future events by training his mind with prayer and study. The word "sober" conveys the idea of thoughtful and careful. Christians can exhibit the self-control implied here because of their hope, or goal, of heaven. To receive that hope, one must be faithful to the end of his life, or until Jesus comes ( 1Pe_1:13 ; Mat_25:1-13 ; Gal_6:9 ; 1Th_4:13-18 ).
Peter's next description of Christians would literally be rendered as children of obedience and suggests they ought to act as if they belong to obedience. This should be done instead of putting on the ways of the world and acting like worldly people act ( Rom_12:1-2 ; Eph_2:2 ; Eph_5:6-7 ; Col_3:4-10 ). That was the past lifestyle of those to whom Peter wrote. It was the way they lived when they were in ignorance, which would suggest they were Gentiles ( 1Pe_1:14 ; Act_17:30 ; Eph_4:17-18 ).
Striving To Be Holy, Like God
Christians should try instead to conform to God, who is holy ( Heb_12:14 ). The idea is set apart from sinfulness for God's service. This is very similar to the Lord's instruction in the Sermon on the Mount ( Mat_5:48 ). The quote of verse 16 comes from Lev_11:44-45 ; Lev_20:7-8 ; Lev_26:1-46 . God is holy in that he is separated from sin and all manner of evil ( Isa_59:1-2 ). Peter notes that God called them and Paul tells us the call comes through the gospel ( 1Pe_1:15-16 ; 2Th_2:14 ).
Peter did not question whether they would call on God as their Father, but gave direction for how they should do that calling. First, they needed to be reminded that God is no respecter of persons but will judge each based upon his deeds ( Act_10:34 ; Rom_2:11 ; Gal_2:6 ; Gal_6:7-8 ). Also, when one calls upon the Father, he should remember he is just a pilgrim in this life. This life should be lived in fear. This is not trembling fear, but the fear Woods describes as the "worshipful awe of obedient children toward their beloved parents" ( 1Pe_1:17 ).
The Priceless Nature of Christ's Blood
Further, Christians can approach this loving Father because they know He brought them back from sin with the blood of His own Son. Christians were not bought back with some of the perishable things men hoard up, thus they could not think they earned it or bought it for themselves. They were bought back from an empty life of sin learned from their fathers. This ought to warn those who simply become something religiously because their parents believed it that way. The word "precious" means highly valued. It is sad that so many pursue the getting of gold and material wealth all their lives with all their might and will spurn the blood of Jesus which is eternally valuable. Christ is our passover lamb that causes eternal death to passover us ( 1Pe_1:18-19 ; 1Co_5:7 ; Joh_1:29 ; Isa_53:7 ).
Just as we buy insurance hoping we will never need to use it, God had a plan to save man from sin in the event man chose that course. That plan was made before the world was formed ( Eph_1:4 ). Notice Paul said God chose all those who are in Christ, not God chose those who should be in Christ. While the plan was in God's mind for years, it was not made known until Christ came into the world ( Rom_16:25-26 ; Eph_3:1-6 ; Col_1:25-27 ).
Christ was made known for the sake of believers. In fact, it is through Christ that one is made a believer in God. The act that really proves Jesus was God's Son, and indeed that there is a God, is his resurrection from the dead ( Act_2:32-36 ; Act_3:14-15 ; Act_4:10 ; Act_5:29-32 ; Act_13:29-33 ; Rom_1:4 ). Christ is now glorified in that he is seated at God's right hand. All of this, as has been noted, produces faith in God ( 1Th_4:13-18 ; 1Co_15:16-23 ). Obviously, this is also the source of the Christian's hope for a home in heaven ( 1Pe_1:20-21 ).
Purified In Obeying the Truth
Their souls had been cleansed from sin's defilement, at the very moment they obeyed the truth. The truth is the word of God ( Joh_17:17 ), which was delivered by the Holy Spirit ( Joh_16:13 ). To fail to obey that truth is to perish ( 2Th_2:10-13 ; verse 14 tells us we are called to belief of the truth by the gospel). One of the purposes of Christians' purification was the production of love of the brethren that was true, or not hypocritical. Such love will come out of a pure heart with the greatest effort behind it, which is the meaning of fervently ( 1Pe_1:22 ).
The purification Peter spoke of in verse 22 took place in the new birth. The new birth takes place through the word of God ( Luk_8:11 ; Jam_1:18 ). Babies are born of corruptible seed, as are all fleshly and physical things, but Christians are born of a seed that will never perish, God's word (compare Joh_3:1-7 ). It is alive in the sense that it is always active and is able to give life. It abides in that it will never perish ( 1Pe_1:23 ; Mat_24:35 ).
The Temporary Material World Versus the Abiding Word
One would never know it by observing the way people live grasping after all they can find in this material world, but all this is temporary. Peter uses a quote which comes from Isa_40:6-8 . Clearly, Christians are surrounded by things that are temporary. All flesh will die as surely as grass goes from green to brown in the fall and winter months. All of man's greatness and his achievements will fall away like the flowers do. In contrast, the Lord's word is permanent. That word is the good news God's people preach. Part of what makes it good is its lasting value versus the temporary good of things and accomplishments in this life ( 1Pe_1:24-25 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30