1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Review – Elect Exiles
Last time, we began our study of this letter written by Peter designed to multiply grace and peace in the lives of those who have been chosen by God, called out of the nations, out of foolishness and sin and death, and made the precious possession of God Himself.
And we saw that we, the precious chosen ones, are now in fact strangers and aliens in the world. Peter highlights two things about Christians in verse one. Peter is writing to those who have been chosen by God to be people for His own possession, but who are still waiting and longing for their home with Him – they are elect exiles.
First Peter is designed to strengthen us, who have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, for the time of our sojourning here – even as fiery trials may come upon us.
Christians will suffer as exiles in this world, and so it is imperative that we not ignore the firm foundation laid for us in God’s Word. This Word is here to strengthen our souls.
Election and the Strength of that Truth
This week we are focusing in on verse 2 where Peter unpacks the glorious truth of our election.
Sadly, in my experience, the mere mention of the words ‘election’ and ‘predestination’ causes some Christians to chafe and become uncomfortable. The truth is that some believers have cut themselves off from even discussing the doctrine of election for fear of discord among brothers and sisters in Christ.
But I believe we need to guard ourselves from abandoning this doctrine or holding it at arms length. It is meant to be embraced and loved and known.
Even as God has not been pleased to reveal everything we might like to know, He has revealed what He knows we need to know to be strengthened for life and godliness as we wait for Christ’s appearing.
It is God’s own Word that speaks about election and predestination (for example Acts 4:28; 8:29; Ephesians 1:5 and 11) and it speaks about these things in contexts meant to strengthen God’s people, not meant to chafe and distress us. Peter is telling us about God’s choosing of us – we are an elect people! – and he is telling us this in order to grid us with strength in this world.
So, even as we must be wise and careful and humble as we look into these things, we must also not belittle or dismiss this doctrine of election as if we have the right or wisdom to edit God’s Words to us.
Without this truth we will not be as strong as God means us to be. This doctrine is part of the grace and peace that God would multiply in our lives. You are meant to think about your election and be encouraged and strengthen by it and praise and honor God for it.
The Structure of the Introduction
If you recall last week I mentioned that a few of our translations don’t have the word elect at the beginning of verse 1, but have decided to include it at the end of verse one or at the beginning of verse 2. They have done this so that we will not miss how Peter is unpacking and explaining our election in verse 2.
So if you look at verse two you will see Peter giving depth and color and clarity to what he means by elect ones. He says we are elect “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” we are elect “in sanctification of the Spirit,” and we are elect “for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”
First of all, notice that the election that Peter wants us to know and embrace and to be strengthened by is an election in which all three Persons of the Triune God are active and involved. We are chosen in an accord with the foreknowledge of the Father. We are chosen to receive the sanctifying work of the Spirit. And we are chosen for obedience to the Son and to receive the cleaning benefits of His blood. The doctrine of election is about the glorious activity of God.
What I would like to do is walk through each of these activities of God and so build our understanding of what it means to be God’s elect exiles and so be strengthened and filled with praise.
Elect According to the Foreknowledge of God the Father
Let’s consider first this work of the Father. You are chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father. What does Peter mean by the foreknowledge of the Father?
Some take the word foreknowledge to mean simply that God knew beforehand what would take place in time and specifically, He knew beforehand who would believe upon the Lord Jesus.
In other words, the Father looked down through the corridors of time and saw before the foundations of the world those who would believe in Jesus. So, those who hold this view understand Peter to be saying that this knowledge of what we would choose to do is the foundation and source and cause of our being chosen by God as His own.
So, God chose you because He knew that you would choose Him. His election of you is conditioned on your faith in Jesus.
Now, it is certainly true that God has perfect knowledge of all events past and present and future and has perfect knowledge of who will believe (Psalm 139:15-16; 1 John 3:20; Hebrews 4:13).
God certainly has perfect knowledge, but is this what Peter means when he says that he is writing to those who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father? Is Peter making the Father’s prior knowledge of our faith the cause and foundation of God’s choosing us?
Well, notice that verse two nowhere mentions our faith as the object of God’s foreknowledge. And the idea that this foreknowledge is simply God’s awareness of who would chose to believe is not anywhere stated in this verse. It is an idea brought to the text, not an idea that is demanded by the text. And so we need to see if this understanding fits in the context. And I believe, as we do that, the evidence will lead us to understand Peter differently.
Obedience Follows Election
What evidence? Well, first of all, notice that the last phrase in verse 2 says we are chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ. Peter says our being chosen is intended to result in obedience to Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems that Peter is saying that we are chosen for the purpose of obedience to Jesus Christ.
So our being chosen has a purpose: obedience. Our being chosen has a result: obedience.
Does our obedience to Jesus include our faith in Him? Of course it does! As Paul says in Romans 1:5-6,
…we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Rather than the obedience of faith being the ground or source of our election, Peter says we are chosen by God for the purpose of and with the result of obedience. God’s choosing comes first and is followed by our obedience.
By God’s Power
But there is more. The view, which says the Father’s foreknowledge is simply His knowledge of who will believe, is really out of joint with what Peter will say in the very next verses. Next week we will take a closer look at verse 3 and following, but for now notice that in verse 3, it is God, who, according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again. He has caused us to gain new spiritual life.
And in verse 5, it is by God’s power that we are being guarded or kept for salvation. And how is God’s power keeping us? Verse 5 says, “though faith.” You are being kept by God (how?) through faith. Faith is God’s powerful means of keeping you.
What is the power that caused us to be brought from spiritual death to spiritual life? God’s power. What is the power that keeps us by means of faith? God’s power. Your spiritual life and even your faith in Christ find their source in God Himself.
Even apart from other biblical considerations, I believe the context of verse 2, 3 and 5 simply does not allow us to hold the view that the Father chose us because He knew before that we would chose Him. It’s quit the reverse, He is the source of our faith and spiritual life and His choosing us results in our choosing him.
The Object of God’s Foreknowledge
Is there a better way to understand this foreknowledge? As we try to understand what Peter means when he says we are elect according to the foreknowing of the Father, we need to bear in mind the way the Scriptures often speak of God’s special knowledge His people.
Listen for example to Psalm 1:6, which says,
…for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
The Lord knows the way of the righteous. Does this imply that He does not know about the way of the wicked? No.
The opposite of ‘knowing the way of the righteous’ is that ‘the way of the wicked will perish’. God is for and watching over the way of the righteous and He is against and opposed to the way of the wicked.
God also speaks of knowing Abraham in a special way in Genesis 18:17-19,
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him [ESV say: chosen him], that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord…”
Does this mean that God did not have information about other people? No. God knows all things, but God knows Abraham is a special way. God is saying that He has recognized Abraham, acknowledged, approved of Abraham – He has known him.
God speaks also of knowing Israel in Amos 3:2
…“You only have I known of all the families of the earth…
Again, is God ignorant of other families of the earth? No. God has chosen Israel and set His love on them in a special way, distinct from all other families of the earth.
There is a special knowing in Scripture which is deeper and richer than simply knowing information about and I believe this deeper knowing is precisely what Peter is communicating to us in 1 Peter 1:2.
In none of the examples just listed is the idea that God knew information about the righteous, or about Abraham, or Israel – rather this knowing has to do with approving of and acknowledging and setting His care upon them.
Christ was Foreknown
And right here is 1st Peter chapter 1, Peter uses this word foreknowledge again in verse 20 of chapter 1. Here he uses it to speak of how the Father foreknew the Son.
1 Peter 1:20
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you…
Again, Peter is not saying that the Father was simply aware of what the Son would do or was simply aware of information about the Son. Rather the text says Christ Himself was foreknown. The Son was known by the Father before the foundations of the world, that is He was the chosen, precious, approved of Lamb without spot or wrinkle. This Known One, God would send and by Him God would ransom people out of every nation. Peter is not trying to tell us that God knew about the Son or that He knew about what He would accomplished – rather Peter is saying that the Son was His precious, approved of Lamb before the foundations of the world but was sent and manifested as such in the last times.
The Object of His Care
So, in verse 2, I believe Peter is telling us that our being chosen to be God’s precious possession accords and is in harmony with the Father’s knowing us beforehand – He foreknew us. He acknowledged us and set his good favor and care upon us.
Peter is writing to gird us with truth for our sojourning and what does he say? Peter does not start by talking about our faith, our works, or our ethnic identity. He starts by saying that we are chosen according to the foreknowing of the Father – according to the Father’s acknowledging of and caring for us before the beginning of time.
Peter wants us to know that we are not the foundation of our salvation. The Father’s knowing of us is the foundation. The Father, freely choosing to set His love on us, is the wellspring of every spiritual blessing. There was nothing lovely in us. There was no condition we could have meet, no action or thought or belief that could have distinguished us from the crowd of sinners with which we ran. There was nothing in all the world we could have done to attract God’s favorable eye – Not one thing!
But the Father knew us before the ages. He freely set His love upon us, undeserving sinners. That is why you are chosen.
1 John 4:10
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”
Elect for Sanctification of the Spirit
Next, Peter adds that we are chosen for something, for the sanctification of the Spirit. As we live in this world, waiting to be taken home, we are to know and embrace the glorious truth that we are chosen for sanctification of the Spirit.
For whatever reason many of us have a far too shallow view of the work of the Spirit. Second Corinthians 3 tells us that the Spirit gives life! That same chapter tells us that we have a new covenant, a covenant of the Spirit, not of the letter. In this New Covenant the Spirit of the living God is written on the tablets of human hearts. Yes, the ministry of the Spirit is the ministry of righteousness and this covenant and ministry is permanent and filled with glory.
Even as our outward person is wasting away we are being renewed day by day. As we behold the Lord Jesus we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. And the Spirit who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead dwells in us and will give life to our mortal bodies.
Peter is telling us that we have been chosen to receive the work of the Spirit of the living God! You have been set apart and placed in the Spirit that you might bear fruit for God. Do we recognize the glory of the New Covenant?
You were not chosen, simply to receive external blessings, but to receive life from the dead – life in the Spirit. To have spiritual eyes and taste buds – to love God and love each other. You are chosen to be a living testimony to the power of God to re-create life and joy and holiness. You were chosen for life abundant and free – for the sanctification of the Spirit!
Elect for Obedience to Jesus Christ and for Sprinkling with His blood
Finally, we come to the statement that we are chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood.
Just as we are reminded every week, as we celebrate at the Lord’s Supper, we know that it was by means of the precious blood of Christ, like a lamb without blemish or spot, that we have been ransomed. You have been chosen to receive the unfathomably precious benefits of the blood of the Son. Worship the Lord for His grace!
But Peter also says explicitly that those who are chosen have been chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ. As I have mentioned, the obedience of faith is certainly included in this, but Peter is clear here that God’s chosen exiles are chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ.
If you are of the elect of God, God has chosen you in order that you might produce the fruit of obedience to Christ. “…those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”(Romans 8:29).
The elect of God will be made known by their obedience to Jesus Christ. If God has foreknown you and the Spirit of God has been written on your heart, and the precious blood of Christ has cleansed you, than you will be conformed to the image of His Son and become obedient to the commands of Christ – if you have been chosen you have been chosen for this purpose.
Someone who does not believe upon the Lord Jesus can have no assurance that they have been foreknown of the Father and chosen as His precious possession. They have no share in the Spirit having not received the benefits of Christ’s blood.
In the same way one with no regard for the commands of Christ, who hates his brother or who runs hand in hand with the world in the passions of the flesh without repentance can have no assurance that they are chosen.
Being chosen by God as his precious possession means being chosen for godliness, holiness, Christ-likeness.
We are not talking about sinless perfection. We are talking about, as Hebrews 12:14 says, striving for holiness. If you love Christ, are you pursuing and striving toward better and more complete obedience to Him? Strive for holiness! This is what God’s people do.
May Grace and Peace Be Multiplied
Peter, even in these first 2 verses, is calling us to consider the incredible depths and purposes of God’s very great salvation – so that grace and peace might multiply in our lives.
We who have trusted Christ for salvation, do we know the foundation and source of our hope in the Father knowing us? Do we know the provision that has been granted to us by the Spirit? Do we glory in the justifying blood of the Son? Do we understand that God is at work and that the salvation that we have in Christ by the Spirit is designed to bear much fruit?
The Spirit of the living God intends to gird us with strength by this Word, for our short time here. We need these truths for life and godliness. As you face trials and difficulties of various kinds, the truth of election is meant to gird you with strength.
God loves His people – God who made heaven and earth, whose name is holy, the great Three in One, has had a plan and is now working to bring you to everlasting joy with Him – rejoice in God your Savior.
Gird yourselves with these truths. He will not let you go!
No matter what trial you may be facing or will face in this life, He is faithful and will complete the work He has begun in you. Praise Him, trust Him, lean on Him, Father, Spirit, and the Son.