Tuesday, October 6, 2009

1 Peter 1:1-2

1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who 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. NIV

Ok, I’m not sure that I really want to start out with these verses. My goal was to get back into the Word deeper than just doing a daily reading and then walking away, not even remembering what I’ve read. I picked 1 Peter because there is a lot in here about suffering for Christ. Many Christians panic when something goes wrong in their lives. I thought that this would be a good study to post so that I could also help others who are going through troubles as well as helping me learn what God wants in my life.

So what do I hit first of all? Verses about election! Do I really want to comment on verses that have divided Christians for centuries? Well, if I want to be true to the Word, I can’t skip over them and not study them. I certainly don’t want to offend someone with what I believe God is teaching me, but I don’t want to miss a blessing from God because I’m afraid to state clearly what I believe the Word is saying. I’ll try to side with Paul as he stated in Gal 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. NIV

With all that out of the way, I’ll actually start commenting on the verses. As I look at the NIV, the first words that stand out are elect, strangers, scattered, and chosen. I double-checked with NASB and an interlinear Bible to make sure the words are really there in the original Greek.

Elect or chosen. The Greek is eklektos (ek-lek-tos'); select; by implication, favorite: KJV – chosen, elect. Rather than reiterate what hundreds or thousands have had to say about election, I simple want to understand what God is saying to me and to anyone who knows Jesus. I’m His favorite. I’m not His last pick for choosing sides. I may not have come over the first time He called but out of that line up of humanity, He selected me. What can I say but, “Thank you Jesus.” I certainly can’t say that I deserved it or earned his calling. There was nothing I did or will do that caused Him to say He wanted me. The word that goes with this selection is foreknowledge.

The Greek for foreknowledge is prognosis (prog'-no-sis). Guess what it means: forethought. Two things come to mind. God thought about me before I was even conceived. He knew me and wanted me to be His. The other thing is that this word is what we always hear regarding health issues. What is the prognosis? How is this disease, injury, or condition going to turn out? Being in sin is like a disease and the ultimate prognosis is death and eternal condemnation. But God’s prognosis for me is eternal life with Him. It’s good to know that the Person making the prognosis is the One who has the capability to make it happen. See Ps 139:1-18 for more about how God knows us.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." NIV Speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God has a word for me too. He formed me, He sets me apart, and He appoints my function in life. If God is sovereign, then He is sovereign in all things and that includes my destiny. My pea sized brain can’t hope to comprehend how He can have total control and foreknowledge (He knows that some will not accept Him and others will) as well as give everyone the opportunity to know Him. (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13) I can only say along with Paul, “Who knows the mind of the Lord?” (Rom 11:34) His being is too much, too great for me to comprehend. I can only stand or fall down in awe.

Strangers or aliens (NASB). At first glance, you would think that Peter is addressing those who are now aliens because they are now living in a country where they had to flee from persecution. However, Peter also speaks about being aliens and strangers regarding behavior in 1 Pet 2:11. Paul explains in Eph 2:12 that we Gentiles were not citizens of Israel and therefore had no part in the promises of God. But through the blood of Jesus we have been brought near to God. Again in Phil 3:15 Paul clearly states we are citizens of heaven. The reason we are aliens is that our home country is not of this world. Our behavior and our customs should be different from those around us.

There are many people in the US (and other countries as well) who think that Christians are out to destroy the country. They believe we have a hidden agenda to overthrow it and make it a “Christian” nation. Part of that fear is based on the fact that we do behave differently. Personally, am I different enough to be identified as a stranger or alien? If not, then something is wrong. What do I need to change? I think I’ve been trying to blend in too much so that I won’t be criticized. It gets back to that stuff I mentioned up above about want to please God rather than man. Lord help me to be an alien that pleases You.

We have been chosen and it is through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If anyone has seen the Stargate TV series, then you know about the Goa’uld. These are alien, snake-like creatures that use a human as hosts and take over. These are totally evil beings. On the other hand there are also the same aliens that are good but are called the Tok’ra. I wonder how many people view Christians as Goa’uld because we have the Holy Spirit living in us. In one of the first TV episodes people are “chosen” to be hosts. If you knew nothing of our God and Jesus and had seen these TV shows, what would you think of people who say they have the Holy Spirit living in them? Well, quite frankly, we are possessed! We have surrendered our bodies to someone who is outside of our physical domain. We have become slave to God and the benefit is holiness and eternal life (Romans 6:22.) This is really scary to people who want to do their own thing. They don’t want to have anyone or anything control them. Me, the more the Holy Spirit is in control of my life, the better.

Then the Word in 1 Peter 1:2 also says that the purpose of your being chosen is obedience to Jesus and that we may be sprinkled by his blood. Whoa! What does that mean? There are so many verses in the Bible that talk about sprinkling blood. Animal sacrifices to cover sin and cleanse objects and people to make them acceptable to God. But in the New Testament, it is clear that Jesus willingly shed His blood once (instead of the many animal sacrifices) so that God would forgive our sins and accept us. Not only does his blood buy our redemption but it also clears our consciences. Heb 9:13-14 says, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” NIV Our obedience to Jesus is a demonstration that we have accepted that cleansing from sin and are turning our lives around. If there is no obedience, then there it is evident that are not His.

Peter finishes his short introduction to this letter by asking for grace and peace be multiplied to us. Thinking about how God has chosen me, cleaned me up, and indwells me by His Holy Spirit based on Jesus’ shed blood to remove my sins and make me part of God’s family, a citizen of heaven gives me peace. Hopefully, I can extend that grace to others too.

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