1 Peter 1:1-2 – The Elect


Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. {1Pe 1:1-2 NASB}

Last time we looked at 1 Peter, we left off by looking at the audience of 1 Peter. Peter addresses the various Christians, the churches, in Asia Minor as “aliens”.  We discovered last time that this word for Aliens is παρεπίδημος (parepidēmos) which means someone who does not belong to the people among whom he resides.  Today, we’ll see that the first thing Peter does in writing his readers is to remind them of who they are:  The Elect.

After listing the the regions to which He is writing, Peter unifies the individuals within those regions together by assigning them one characteristic.  He say they are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood”  The grammar of the sentence is easy to see and supports the choosing of men by God; that God is the actor and that men are those acted upon.

Some criticism has arisen over the years that the Epistle borrows heavily from the works of Paul. It is statements such as this that are used in support of this case. Indeed, the choosing of elect men and women by God for salvation is a theme of Paul’s (Eph 1&2, Rom 9, etc). However, this is known as the “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc” fallacy, or simply “A questionable cause”. It is often stated that simply because A occurs before B that A is the cause of B. While there is no doubt that Peter read Paul and endorses him (2Pe 3:15-16), this does not mean that Peter is copying Paul.

Furthermore, a proper theology of the Bible -which has a single Author writing through many human tools- dictates a harmony found among the various books. The Bible does not present itself as a number of differing arguments and viewpoints competing for supremacy, but rather a unified message told from many perspectives. Perhaps the best example is the four gospels themselves. (See AW Pink “Why Four Gospels?”).JohnCalvin

Moreover, if Peter is copying Paul, why is that so bad? What damage is done from repeating truth? Why must Peter reinvent the wheel and think on his own terms in order to be taken seriously? Most of all, why does a supposed failure to do that mean that Peter is not the author of this Epistle (as many allege)? These are questions that liberal critics do not answer.

Lost in the arguments about authorship and is what Peter is actually saying.  Make no mistake, Peter is clearly teaching that Christians are elect, chosen for salvation, by God.  Peter not only declares his readers elect but also, through the use of prepositions, details the “nuts and bolts” of election.  This is not a minor detail.  Rather, in beginning this important letter at a critical time, Peter devotes some words to explaining the motivation, the method, and the purpose of election.

The aliens have been chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God”. The English adverb “according” is the preposition “kata” in Greek which is used to demonstrate that the action comes from a higher place. Thayer’s Lexicon states that it denotes “motion or diffusion or direction from the higher to the lower; as in class”. In other places this word is used to denote that something is done in a particular manner (John 2:6) and to show a correlation between an effect and a cause (Matt 9:29).  So, in this case we can see the foreknowledge of God as being the manner in which God chooses those who are His elect and that the result of His choosing correlates to His foreknowledge.  In other words, the choosing rests entirely with Him and His wise counsel.

Foreknowledge here also carries a lot of weight toward a theme of 1 Peter.  In chapter 1 verses 20 & 21, Peter writes:

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. {1Pe 1:20-21 NASB}

past-present-futureSo then, we can that it was not merely the elect that were foreknown before the foundation of the world as it says in verse 2 (and in Ephesians 1), but also Christ was foreknown.  Foreknowledge of Christ does not imply a time when He wasn’t.  The verses here say nothing of a beginning or an ending of Christ.  Rather, it says more about what Christ was and who He would be in the context of salvation.  In other words, the Father knew the suffering of the Son would happen before the foundation of the world.  In fact, it was always in His mind.  Equally, always in His mind, were those for whom Christ would suffer.  The Elect, and the Savior, forever linked and forever together in the mind of God.  

Peter says this choosing is “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit”. We take Spirit here to be the Holy Spirit. It is easy to be turned around here and to say that those who are sanctified are chosen. That interpretation may make sense except for the word “by” in this phrase. Peter did not say “because of your sanctification”, but rather “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” Peter is denoting that this is the ongoing work of God in choosing us for salvation. It tells us that election is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing relationship God begins and ends.

We see in Scripture that “without [sanctification] no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14) and “God has chosen you from the beginning through sanctification” (2 Thes 2:13). In short, the Holy Spirit chooses us and begins a good work in us which continues until the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).crucifixion

Peter is clear: we are chosen “to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood”. Election isn’t for us. We are to obey Christ. Peter affirms that Jesus isn’t merely our Savior, but also our Lord. We are to serve Him and to do what He says. The sprinkling with blood is a clear Jewish reference, and the first of many for Peter; the ‘apostle to the Jews’.  It draws the image of the lamb slain for the forgiveness of sins whose blood was sprinkled on the veil in the sin offerings offered by the priests in the Old Testament (continuing up until around the time Peter wrote this letter).

By equating Jesus’ blood with this picture, Peter is subtly making the case that Jesus is the propitiation for sins and the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He does not appeal to another sacrifice, or to the old methods of covering sin.  Instead, Peter points to the cross and the crucified Jesus as the once for all sacrifice for sins.

It should also be noticed that this is a very Trinitarian view of election and salvation here.  Peter outlines the roles of each in the choosing of saints and in their life with God.  The elect are chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father, by the work of the Holy Spirit, and to obey and find forgiveness for sins in Christ Jesus.  All three persons are equally important, equally revered, and yet uniquely necessary in the process of Salvation.  Peter ends his opening greeting with his customary warmth saying “May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure”.  The greeting, in its informality, reinforces the notion that Peter knew his readers.

Next week, we’ll look at the coming treasure and reward for the elect in Christ.

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