1PETER1v1and2: THE WRITER AND HIS READERS
Little is written on these two verses on the internet. The short passage can be dealt with under 3 headings: The writer, his readers and the blessing. Notwithstanding its brevity the passage has much to teach us.
Peter describes himself as an apostle - not the apostle and certainly not the prince of apostles. Paul often had his authority questioned by the Jewish legalistic Christians. He needed to defend himself. This was never the case with Peter - the rock on which Christ would build his church.
What does it mean to be an apostle - not THE apostle? The Greek originally meant, 'one who is sent off ' to deliver a message. So an apostle was a messenger. Peter had a message to deliver. His status as an apostle depended upon whose message he was conveying.
Peter was the messenger of Jesus Christ. We can read of him delivering Christ's message in: "Acts2v14to40 and Acts4v1to20. I love Peter's words to the Sanhedrin: "Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name given to men by which we must be saved." Acts4v12.
An apostle of Jesus Christ is also the representative of Jesus. Christians are entrusted by Jesus to pursue his interests. These interests are concisely stated in the Great Commission: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Mt29v18.
An apostle of Christ can be thought of as Jesus' ambassador. An ambassador of the United Kingdom would be expected to live in a way that brought credit to his country - not discredit.
So Peter needed to do credit to Jesus by the way he conducted himself. In this respect he needed to be like Moses who enjoyed the best of reputations among Pharaoh's officials.
All Christians are called to be apostles of Jesus; to promote his gospel by what we say; to promote his cause by what we do; to commend him by the way we are. We should be like Jesus. Thank God for all those who are like Him.
(2) The readers.
The recipients of Peter's letter were God's chosen people. The passage tells us four things about them:
(a) Their condition. The Christians to whom Peter wrote were endangered.
* First of all they were scattered through the Roman provinces of what is now known as the Middle East. After the stoning of Stephen the church in Jerusalem was scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. See Acts8v1to4. Those who had been scattered preached the gospel wherever they went.
Christians were usually in the minority in all the Roman Provinces in which the church gained a foothold. They were unable to dominate the communities in which they became established.
Today it is much same in many parts of the world. It is the same now in the Middle East as it was in the days of Peter. Christians can be found in every state - but they are always in a minority.
* Secondly, Christians everywhere are strangers or aliens. They don't fit into the societies in which they live. This doesn't mean they are bad citizens or subjects. Paul made it clear that Christians should obey those in authority. However, the Christians first allegiance is not to their earthly rulers but to Jesus. A Christian's values are not those of the world.
So, Christians are treated with both derision and suspicion in many, many parts of the world. This is increasingly the case in my own country. Christians are being turned down for jobs because of their beliefs. More and more restrictions are being imposed on the church in China. Why do the Chinese leaders think the church is their enemy?
(b) Their selection. Peter affirms that Christians have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God. This, and similar verses, are among the most misunderstood in the Bible. God always knew that if salvation's plan was put into operation some would believe in the provision made by Jesus for men and women's forgiveness and reconciliation to Him. God decided before the foundation of the world that he would chose men and women to be members of His family on the basis of their belief in Jesus. They would be elected or chosen depending upon their faith. This is the message of John in his gospel, and nowhere more clearly, than in chapter 1v12: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born, not of natural descent, nor or human decision or a husbands will, but born of God.
It is God, and God alone, who sets the criteria whereby a man or woman is saved and accepted into his family. The key criterion is belief in Jesus. It remains the responsibility of humans to believe in Jesus. Salvation is God's gift - NOT faith. Faith is our business. We are saved by God's grace and through our belief in what Jesus has accomplished for us.
(c) Their obligation. Christians have been chosen to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit as they set about obeying Jesus. Sanctification means to be set apart, or made, specifically for a special purpose intended by the designer.
The pen in my hand is sanctified when it is used to write with - not to pick my nose with. A cricket bat is sanctified when used to make an elegant cover drive - not to bang one's pads with in frustration at missing the ball. A Christian is sanctified when he or she lives according to God's purpose - which is to live in obedience to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit, a wise and caring adviser, helps the Christian to obey Jesus in a variety of ways:
* By reminding us what Jesus taught. For example, Jn15v12: "Love each other as I have loved you."
* Convincing us of the crucial importance of obedience; for example, Jn14v21: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me."
* Applying Christ's teaching to actual circumstances. For example, a dispute within the local church. However, right we may be, our priority should be to love those who oppose us and to seek reconciliation with our opponents rather than succumb to division and disunity.
The Holy Spirit reminds us that God has chosen us to be brothers of Jesus in order for us to obey him and to be like him thereby bringing glory to the Father.
(d) Their confidence. Christians have been chosen to benefit from the sprinkling of Christ's blood. In the Old Testament the Israelites were sprinkled with the blood of bullocks to confirm the covenant God made with them. The Covenant, or Agreement, is stated in Ex19v3to6: "Now if you obey me and keep my Covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
The Agreement whereby the Israelites would be God's people if they kept the commandments was confirmed in a strange ceremony described in Ex24v1to8. Bullocks were sacrificed to God. The blood was collected. Half was sprinkled on the altar and half was sprinkled on the people by Moses who proclaimed: "This is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."
So, why the sacrifice of bullocks? Why the shed blood? Why the sprinkled blood?
Perhaps, it was a sign that the Israelites would need forgiveness for failing to obey ALL God's commands. It indicated graphically that God would accept sacrifices as atonement for sin. There was at this early date a recognition that the Israelites would need to rely on the grace of God to remain his people.
There is no simple statement of the New Covenant in the New Testament. John's gospel stresses over and over again the importance of belief in Jesus to benefit from the New Covenant. For example: Yet to all who received him (Jesus), to those who believed inhis name, he gave the right to become children of God. Jn1v10.
This New Agreement would not, however, be possible without the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus. So at the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
It is not enough to obey Jesus as best we are able. Our best is not good enough. In the end we need to rely on God's grace, God's willingness to accept the death and shed blood of Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins.
This truth is enshrined in the Communion Service. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: This cup in the New Covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. 1Cor12v25.
As Christians, we should have every confidence of being accepted by God if we depend wholly for our righteousness on the righteousness of Jesus and his perfect, sufficient sacrifice to atone for our sins.
(3) The blessing.
The blessing reflects Peter's desire for God's people. He follows the example of Paul who nearly always sent his blessing to the churches to whom he wrote. Peter uses very much the same words as Paul to bless the scattered Christian fellowships of Asia Minor: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Peter wanted the Christians to whom he wrote to live in the knowledge of God's grace. Their salvation depended upon the grace of God in accepting the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross. It was like all sacrifices, a token payment for mankind's sins that God showed grace in accepting. His acceptance was what made it effective for our salvation.
Our dependence on grace should keep the Christian humble. It should also encourage us to show grace to others and not to treat them strictly as they deserve. Jesus taught us to pray: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us."
Peter also wanted the Christians who received his letter to have peace, that sense of well being that comes from knowing that God loves us. It is also vital if we want to experience Christ's peace to follow his example. Jesus experienced a sense of well being because he always spoke and acted in his Father's will. He said on one occasion to his disciples: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Jn4v34. See also Jn5v30.