Devotional: 1 Peter 1:1-25
The first thing I notice is that Peter writes this letter to “the elect sojourners of the dispersion”. Elect comes from a word that means “chosen out, select; by implication, favorite”. Sojourners is from a word that means “”an alien alongside”, i.e., a “resident foreigner”; it is an adjective signifying “sojourning in a strange place, away from one’s own people.” Dispersion is translated from the word “diaspora” that means “dispersion, i.e. (specific and concrete) the (converted) Israeli resident in Gentile countries.” This means that Peter was writing to Jewish Christ trusters who had left Jerusalem and the Promised Land under the persecution that started with Stephen’s stoning. Remember, long before any Gentile (non-Jewish person) ever came to trust in the One True God, He had called Israel His “chosen” people (Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:1-2). From Galatians 2:8, we learn that Peter’s primary mission was to the Jews, as opposed to Paul’s mission primarily being to the Gentiles. So, essentially, we are “reading someone else’s mail”. Again, ALL Scripture is given to us for our learning, so let’s see what we can learn from this letter. One important note: we cannot forget that this is a letter to Jewish trusters in Christ. For instance, we will see in chapter 2, verse 9, that Peter says of his readers, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priest hood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We Gentile trusters in Christ may be among the chosen (Paul says in Romans 11, that we have been grafted into their root), but we have never been called “a holy nation” (a set-apart for God nation). Remember, even though the USA was, in my opinion, founded on Christian ideals and by those of Christian beliefs, “Gentiles” refers to ALL people who are not of Jewish descent. Collectively, Gentiles are not “a holy nation”. No one, not the USA or the Body of Christ (the “Church”) has replaced the Jewish people in God’s eyes.
Notice that these Jewish believers have been “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obeying Yeshua the Messiah and for sprinkling with his blood”. I believe that this points to the future of that remnant of Israel that we touched on in the study in Malachi. There will come a day when they will embrace Messiah Yeshua (“Christ Jesus”, in the Greek language), by faith be cleansed forever by His shed blood, and live in obedience to Him. God has had this mapped out from the beginning, back in Genesis—because He knew ahead of time that these “few” would respond to His calling. Just as He knew back in the beginning that you and I, Gentiles, would also accept His invitation of deliverance. It kind of boggles the mind to contemplate this “chosen, choosing” stuff! But it is true: by choosing to trust in Christ, we become part of the chosen.
Peter ends his salutation in this letter with a blessing, “grace and peace be multiplied to you”. This would be encouraging in and of itself for his readers; remember they have been displaced from their homeland and are living as foreigners among the Gentiles in primarily what is now known as Turkey.
Verse 3 begins the body of this letter with the Gospel message itself: God in His great mercy caused us (both believing Jews and believing Gentiles) to be born again through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This gives us hope that is not just wishful thinking, but “favorable and confident expectation, a forward look with assurance.” Why can we have such a hope? Because it is totally founded upon trusting God Who never lies and does not change (Numbers 23:19; and Titus 1:1-3). What is it we Gentiles are hoping for? The promised inheritance: eternal life and physical access to our Savior and God. The Jewish believers are looking forward to inheriting the promised physical Kingdom of God, ruled by God’s Anointed One.
Verse 5: the “salvation” referred to here is the still future deliverance of all believers (Jews or Gentiles who have put their faith/trust in Jesus) at the Second Coming of Christ from God’s wrath which will be poured out on the ungodly at the end of this age of grace. How do we attain this deliverance? Not by anything that we do to somehow earn it. It is strictly by trusting—by placing our faith in what God has said. It is His power alone that protects us for that event. The word defined as “protects” here means “to be a watcher in advance, i.e. to mount guard as a sentinel; it is a military term meaning to keep by guarding, to keep under guard as with a garrison.” It speaks of the “security of the [truster in Christ] until the end and of the sense of that security that is his when he puts all his matters into the hand of God”.
Verses 6-7: While God is preserving His people (both Jew and Gentile) for this future deliverance, that doesn’t mean that we won’t face trials in this world. Jesus Himself promised that we would face testing of our faith (John 16:33). However, here, we are told a reason for this: it is to “prove” our faith. Think of “assaying” the gold brought in by prospectors in the old days. This process determined the genuineness of the gold. The genuineness of our trust in God through Christ Jesus (our trust in His Word) will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation (unveiling) of Christ.
Verse 8-12: I notice that these Jewish believers in Christ are just like us. They had not known Messiah Jesus in His earthly life but have put their trust in Him because of what they had heard about Him and what Scriptures (what we know as the “Old Testament”) had said about Him. Instead of “amputating” the Bible by getting rid of the Old Testament, as at least one TV preacher is promoting, we should be “believing what it says” because the whole thing is the Word of God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we see Jesus “veiled”; in the New Testament, we see Him “revealed”. In the Bible, we have information that even the angels longed to know.
Verse 13 starts with “therefore”, which reflects back on all that Peter has said in the first 12 verses of this letter. Since, or because, “we” readers have been chosen, set apart by the Holy Spirit for obedience to God and His Word, cleansed by the shed blood of Christ, born again with an assurance of a future inheritance, tested and been found genuine in our trust, and recipients of the entire Scriptures which predict our future deliverance (among other things)—because of all that, Peter calls on us to “brace our minds for action” and be sober (this word is translated from a word meaning to “be free from the influence of intoxicants”), and to set our hearts on God’s grace which will be fully realized when Christ is revealed to the world. Revelation 9:18-21 says that during the Great Tribulation people will not give up their “pharmakeia” (translated “sorceries”): they will not give up their use of medicines and drugs. It is interesting to me that Peter, looking ahead to the time of our deliverance, includes this call to keep our minds alert and free from the influence of any intoxicants. He calls us to be “holy”. What is holiness? It is not perfection. Holiness is being set apart—in our case, set apart for service to God. We are to be set apart from the world because we serve a God Who is set apart, lifted up higher than any other so-called god.
Verses 17-21: Why was the life that these Jewish trusters in Christ had inherited from their ancestors previously “worthless” or “futile”? The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Old Covenant’s sacrificial system was not sufficient to fully cleanse the people from their sin(s) (Hebrews 10:1-10). Sacrifices had to be made over and over, kind of like the futility of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Christ was the final, totally sufficient sacrifice. His blood did what no other blood could do. He was the final, perfect Lamb that God supplied to bring an end to the futility of the sacrifices of animals.
Verses 22-25: The word used here as “purified” or “cleansed” is a word that means “to make clean, i.e., (figuratively) sanctify”. Peter says that trusters in Christ are cleansed by “obeying” the Word of God. This sounds like doing something for salvation, but in reality, it comes back to believing—trusting! Placing your trust in Christ’s sacrifice for your sin(s) is being obedient to what God says in the Bible. That comes first; then, works or “doings” happen as a result of gratitude for the cleansing received. Once again, love for (unity with) other members of Christ’s Body is the result of our trusting in Him.
Verses 23-25 remind us that God’s word is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). These are not just words printed on a page that we are reading, but they are infused with the Spirit of God, Who uses them to reveal our hearts and teach us what we need to know and do to live in a way that brings glory to God. When we base our lives on Christ’s sacrifice as revealed in the Bible, our lives become as eternal as God’s Word is. Eternal life, knowing God (John 17:3), is what the Good News is all about.
Devotional reading to be shared on July 15th: 1 Peter 2:1-25