About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Peter’s Introduction (ch. 1:1 - 2)

 

Peter begins his letter in verse 1 by introducing himself as an apostle, or "apostolos" in Greek.  "Apostolos" simply  means "one who is sent."  This Greek word was not a religious word as our word "apostle" is understood by most today.  It was an everyday word.  Anyone who was sent by anyone was an apostle.  Of course, in Christian terms this word has a very special meaning, as we will see.       

 

In Acts 1:22 we note that Peter believed that the apostle that should take Judas’ place had to be one that had been with Jesus from the beginning, yet,  does this mean that only men who lived on earth and saw Jesus in the flesh can be an apostle?  No, it doesn't mean that.  There are other apostles mentioned  in the New Testament, including Silas, Timothy, and Paul, among others.  Paul himself speaks of his apostleship in terms as being one who was born late, that is, compared to the other main apostles such as Peter.  See 1 Corinthians 15:8.        

 

Peter believed that the one who took the place of Judas had to have been with them from the beginning.  The Twelve, as they are sometime known, were specifically appointed by Jesus and thus were somewhat special.  That is why I believe Judas’ replacement had to have known Jesus in the flesh.  At least this appeared to be Peter’s thinking.  You can read this in Acts 1.

 

Concerning modern day apostles, I believe that we need to make a distinction between them and the original 12 plus Paul.  A modern day apostle cannot proclaim special revelation that does not agree with the Bible.  In fact, modern day apostles only repeat what the Biblical apostles taught.  Apostles of today teach what the first apostles taught.

 

Is the apostolic ministry a valid ministry for today?  Some people say it is and others say it isn't.  The fact of the matter is, if there were secondary apostles after the 12 and Paul, and, if an apostle is simply one who is sent, then it is logical to conclude that the apostolic ministry is a valid ministry for today.

 

In my personal experience with so-called modern day apostles, some who claim such status are not always ones who have been sent out by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  They are more of a pastor or an administrator.  A person who is always in one location, as a pastor is, and never is sent out or on the move, does not fit the definition of an apostle.

 

In verse 1 Peter says that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ.  This means that Jesus is the one who sent him out to be an apostle.  As an apostle of Jesus, Peter represented Jesus to those He met and to those Jesus had placed before him at any given time.  

 

The name Jesus means "Yahweh is salvation."  It is translated from the Greek word "eisous."  Joshua, or "Yehhowshuwa."  The tile Christ is translated from the Greek word "christos," meaning, "anointed."  "Christos" is sometimes translated as "Messiah" in the New Testament. 

 

We don't see Jesus other title here, which is, "Lord."  Christian Jews, and even Gentile Jews, in the first century understood that the word "Lord" was sin reference to the Almighty God."  The Greek word translated as Lord is "kuriouis."  It was used for anyone in authority, but for the Christian in the first century, the word took on the most elevated meaning possible, and that being God, or Yahweh in Hebrew.  This clearly tells us that Jesus while in human flesh was God.               

 

Also in verse 1 Peter addresses his letter to the "elect."  Over the centuries, and especially since the Reformation, the word "elect" has caused great discussion.  Without getting into the controversy of predestination (see my notes for Romans 8:28-30 to explain predestination) 'elect" simply means a chosen people or a chosen one.  Peter most likely uses this term in its Jewish sense.  This whole phrase is Jewish in nature, especially with the Greek word "diaspora" used here as seen in the word "scattered."  In those days, the diaspora did refer to Christian Jews who were scattered from Jerusalem because of persecution.

 

The word "elect" is translated from the Greek word "eklektos" that means "to be chosen out of."  You might see the resemblance between this Greek word and the Greek word "ekklesia" that is translated at church in the New Testament.  Both words when used in connection with people implies a choosing of some people out of a larger group of people. 

 

The debate is over who Peter was writing this letter to.  Was he writing to Jewish Christians or was he writing to all Christians, whether Jew or Gentile?   I tend to think that he was writing to all Christians.  The phrase "those living in ignorance" in chapter 1:14 might suggest that these people to whom Peter is writing are Gentiles.  On the other hand, they could have been Jews who came to the Lord.  The phrase "once you were not a people" in verse 10 of chapter 2 might suggest that his readers were Gentile.  Again, on the other hand, a people who weren't God's people has been understood in Biblical terms to be backslidden Jews.  The comment concerning Peter's readers being pagan in chapter 4, verses 3 and 4 might suggest that those to whom this letter was written might be Gentile.  You can do further study for yourself to gain your personal understanding.  

 

What may be happening here in verse 1 is that Peter is viewing Gentile believers as the true people of God in this present age of grace in which we now live.  They have been grafted into the Jewish tree as Paul speaks in his discourse concerning Israel in Romans 9 through 11.  

 

It's my thinking that the words  "elect" or "chosen" speak mostly to Jews, although, there may be cases where these words refer to all New Testament believers.  I believe the context of how these words are used should determine how we should understand these words.  Again, I tend to believe, at least to date, the elect Peter is talking about are all the New Testament believers in the geographical areas to which he is writing.  That being said, I could be wrong. 

 

Note the words "strangers in the world."  Some translations use the word "alien."  I actually like that word because I think it better portrays the meaning of what Peter is saying here.  Both words are translated from the Greek word "parepidmos" which simply means "a sojourner or one passing through."  It was the first century Christian mentality that believed the true Christian was indeed strangers in this world.  We see this clearly in the last few verses of Hebrews 11 where the writer of that book states that both Old and New Testament believers are strangers in this world because their home is actually in heaven.  As the old Christian song once put it; "this world is not my home."  Our problem in western world Christianity today is that we do not hold to this thinking.  We are too much in love with this world to consider being strangers in the world.  1 John 2:15 tells us not to love this world. If we do love this world, John says that the love of God is not in us.  Jesus Himself in John 15:10 clearly says that we do not belong to this world.  We belong to a heavenly world.  We are simply pilgrims passing through on our way to the next life.  We should be thus inviting others to follow our footsteps.

 

The locations that Peter mentions in verse 1 are in present day north west Turkey , where in Acts 16:6 to 10 the Holy Spirit told Paul not to go and preach.  Maybe, and it's speculation, Jesus did not want Paul to go there because that is where Peter was preaching.          

 

In verse 2 Peter says that the Christians to whom he is writing have been chosen because of the "foreknowledge of God."  Some people see what is called the doctrine of predestination in this verse, or at least a version of this doctrine.  There is actually no word corresponding Greek word for the word "chosen" in verse 2.  What the NIV does here is to combine the total thought of both verse 1 and verse 2.  The NIV is not a word for word translation.  It is more of a thought by thought translation. 

 

The debate over the word "chosen" - who is the chosen - has been raging for centuries.  Has God predestined some to be saved or has He predestined all to be saved?   Are the Jews God's chosen people in New Testament times?  Are Christians God's chosen in New Testament times?  Will the Jews ever be God's chosen, if they aren't now?  I believe in this present era that Christians are God's chosen people, but, the time will come when God will one day bring His Old Testament chosen people, the Jews, back into the forefront of prophetic history.     

 

Concerning the word "foreknowledge," God, in His ultimate foreknowledge of all things, knows what will happen before it happens.  He knows who will be saved.  He knows who will not be saved.  I do not believe He predestines only some to be saved.  If that were so, John 3:16, and all other verses with the words "whosoever will" in them are irrelevant, and I certainly don't believe that.  God exists outside of our space and time environment.  Past, present, and future is only relevant to Him as He interacts with us in our space time world.  He knows the beginning from the end.  

 

Note in verse 2 that God is Father.  Many believe that the term Father is an anthropomorphic term.  That is, the word Father best fits who God is.  It's a human term to try to explain a non-human God.  The Jewish sense of Father was leader, the one in charge of things.  That is our Father God.  There is no hint of sexuality in God being Father here as there is in its human context.  In human terms, fathers are male.  I'm not sure you can view God as being either male or female.  He is a spirit and in a class of His own.  That being said, you can see both male and female characteristics in the nature of God.  Some suggest, because of the name El Shaddai, one of the names for God, that God has both male and female characteristics.  They say this because the root word "shadd" that El Shaddai comes from means "the breasted one."    

 

There is a lot of theology in this second verse, especially from a so-called unlearned man, as many think Peter was.  Peter has just spoken about 2 great theological concepts; election, and foreknowledge.  Now in the next phrase he says, "through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit."  Here, yet another theological concept is introduced, and that is sanctification.  This word simply means "to separate."  In this context the work of the Holy Spirit is to separate God’s people from the world, solely unto God.  That is to say, that the world no longer owns the Christian.  God, not the world owns the Christian.  The Holy Spirit separates the true believer from the unbelievers in the world, and places him into the people of God.  Of course, if the Holy Spirit does not live in a person, there is no sanctifying work.  One must have the Holy Spirit in order to be a part of God's separate community of people.  As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:9;' if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you do not belong to God.  It's that simple.      

 

Why does the Holy Spirit do this sanctifying?  In verse 2 Peter says "for the obedience to Jesus Christ."  Believers are expected to obey Jesus after they give their lives to Him.  That sounds only natural, although by experience we can see that this is not always the case with people.  One might, thus, conclude that if there is no evidence of such obedience to Jesus, then one has not been separated from the world and has not really been saved.  Jesus once said that by their fruit you will know them (Matthew 7:16).  If there is fruit there is obedience.  If there is no fruit there is no obedience.   

 

Sanctification might be seen in 2 aspects.  It is a one time event when one gives his life to Jesus, yet, on the other hand, it is a progressive thing.  One is in the process of being separated from the world as he gives more of his life to Jesus.  What sanctification isn’t, at least in my thinking, is a one time second experience as the Methodists would teach, something like the second work of grace called the Baptism in the Spirit as Pentecostals would teach.  This doctrine of sanctification says that at some subsequent point to one’s conversion, one gets totally sanctified.  That is to say, the world has absolutely no hold on the person.  I don’t really believe this way of thinking.

 

When one gets saved, one is transplanted from one kingdom to another, and then after this transplant takes place there is a process in which the earthly kingdom is little by little taken out of the person.   You might put it this way.  God separates us out of the world at conversion and puts us in His kingdom.  Then once that has taken place He, by His Spirit takes the earthly kingdom out of us.

 

Peter closes this verse with the phrase, "for the obedience of Jesus Christ and the sprinkling of His blood."  The words "sprinkling of blood" is a direct reference to Jewish custom as detailed in the Law of Moses.  In using the word "obedience" which the Jewish Christians would have been raised to understand, this obedience would be to the Law of Moses.  Now obedience is replaced to obedience to Jesus.  This is the New Covenant which is not based on the Law, not based on blood sacrifices of animals, but based on the blood sacrifice of Jesus.  So, by using the words "obedience to Jesus and his blood" the reader knows well what Peter is speaking about.  This is not a matter of the Law, but a matter of Jesus and His shed blood. 

 

Getting back to the beginning of this verse when Peter calls Christians “elect strangers in the world”.  The Larry Norman song from the 1970’s is good commentary on this verse.  In one of his songs he says, “this world is not my home, I’m just passing through”.   Although God created the world, the world in its present condition is not what God created.  We as Christians are thus foreigners, or strangers in the world in its present state.  Our home is in heaven with Jesus.  So Larry Norman is right when he says that he is just “passing through”.  This thought may not sit well with some “kingdom now” teachers who have little thought about Heaven.  But the truth of the matter is that the first generation Christian, like Peter, did not put much hope in this present world. Their hope was always in the resurrection life to come.

 

The next phrase ends Peter’s greeting.  It says, "grace and peace be with you in abundance."  This is a prayer.  Peter is praying that God’s grace and His peace will be with these people in the midst of all their trials and tribulations, of which there were many.  The natural tendency for these people, and for us today, is to give up in times of hardship.  Peter wanted God’s grace, meaning, His ability to get us through our troubles, to be strong in these people’s lives. Then beyond that, he wanted the peace that only comes from our Lord to be with these people in these hard times. 

Simply put, Peter says, "may God grant you His ability to stand firm in trouble, and His peace that will help you cope."

 

There are 2 definitions for the word "grace" as seen in the Bible. The first is God's unmerited favour that He extends to us who do not deserve it.  This is the most common understanding of grace, but, there is another lesser known understanding.  God's grace is also the God given ability for us to endure all that comes our way, as I believe fits verse 2 here.

 

There are also 2 ways to understand peace as seen in the Bible.  We have peace with God, meaning, we are no longer His enemies.  We also have peace in God, meaning, we have His peace within our hearts and lives that helps us through whatever comes our way, whether good, bad. or ugly.      

 

Note that in the first 2 verses Peter speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

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