“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.”1 Peter 1:1-2
1st Peter and Peter’s Greeting
Peter’s overall message is that, even in the face of unfair circumstances, believers can and should demonstrate behavior characterized by respect in all relationships as they follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a valid message for today. When faced by bleak circumstances, believers are to be motivated by a living hope for future glory based on what Jesus has done. Looking forward to the future believers are to be nourished by God’s Word and cooperate with the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He works to transform their character into a likeness of Christ. For the sake of the lost, believers are to set a good example to unbelievers in speech and conduct, spreading the good news of the gospel.
The letter’s first readers were in the Roman Provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These places are located north and west of Jerusalem in the area of modern turkey, south of the Black Sea and north of Jerusalem. Pontus and Bithynia were actually one province. The separation into two parts in Peter’s list is likely due to the list being in the sequence places would be encountered by one carrying the letter to the churches. Landing in Pontus from a Black Sea port the messenger would go overland through portions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia and into to the province of Asia. From Asia the messenger would go north into Bithynia and likely back to Rome via the port of Byzantium.
Acts 2 mentions that people from Pontus, Cappadocia, and Asia were in Jerusalem at Pentecost and heard Peter preach. Some of these people may well have been among the three thousand souls converted that day and have returned to their homes spreading the gospel. The Apostle Paul also ministered in all these provinces. The churches to which Peter wrote consisted of mixed groups of Jewish and Gentile converts (1 Peter 1:18, 2:10, 4:3-4).
In the World but Not of It
As elect exiles in this world, believers experience a tension between being “in the world” but no longer “of the world.” Proper balance can be maintained only by walking with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). To maintain a proper balance in thoughts, words, and actions each believer must cooperate with the gracious work of the Spirit who works to transform believers into a character likeness of Christ. We must not grieve or quench the Spirit. If we fail to cooperate with the Spirit’s work we tend to drift from one extreme to another – going from being spiritual to being worldly and back again. Without the Spirit’s balancing work the tendency is to become worldly, unspiritual, and expediently humanistic or at the other extreme – ascetic, mystical, and escapist.
Peter’s Apostolic Authority
The first two verses are tightly packed. Peter identifies himself and his apostolic authority. He teaches how the trinity brought about our salvation. Election according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, cleansed of sin by Christ’s Blood for the purpose of obedience to Jesus Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”1 Peter 1:3-5
Blessed by Being Born Again to a Living Hope
In His great mercy God shows His love and compassion by bringing new spiritual life to individuals. Every human born physically since the sin of Adam and Eve is born spiritually dead. By God’s direct action He gives new spiritual life to individuals. Because people already exist by their physical birth, they are said to be born again from above (through God’s direct action). That which is born again from above is their spirit. God gives rebirth with no consideration of any merit we may think we have. Rebirth is all of grace. We are passive as God works the miracle of rebirth.
Spiritual rebirth is made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Spiritual rebirth brings with it a living hope, in which God promises believers an assured inheritance. The inheritance is indestructible, cannot fade or spoil, is undefiled by sin, and is kept by God in heaven. In the here and now God gives believers the beginnings of their inheritance in the gift of faith and love.
Reference to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” does not signify the Son was created by the Father (the Son always existed John 1:1-3,8:58,17:5,17:24, Revelation 22:13). The Father relates to the Lord Jesus Christ as a father relates to a son. The Father plans and directs, the Son responds and obeys. The Father “sends”, the Son goes from the Father (Galatians 4:4, John 3:16, 3:18, 5:19). The Father creates “through” the Son and all things come “from” the Father “through” the Son (John 1:3, 1Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2)
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1 Peter 1:6-7
The Contrast Between “What Will Be” and “What Is Now
Believers rejoice in their living hope even though they face trials testing the genuineness of their faith. Jesus said that the world will hate believers just as the world hated Him. The life of believers in the world, as they live by faith, may be filled with trials and hardships in sharp contrast to the promised ultimate inheritance when they are with Christ in glory. When trials occur, God uses them to test and develop our character and faith. Peter says grief and joy are both normal in the Christian life. Grief arises from the many difficulties everyone encounters in this fallen world. But faith looks to the unseen reality beyond the present brief existence – and rejoices.
As we mature as believers, we become more and more Christ-like. As a result, we will experience increasing grief from the experienced behavior of ourselves and others. We will realize more clearly the horror of “what is” compared to the glory of “what might be” if the gracious offer of the gospel were accepted and lived. Successful perseverance during tests of faith will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”1 Peter 1:8-9
Perceiving Through Faith
Peter walked and lived Jesus. He saw Him frequently, talked with Him, witnessed His gory in the transfiguration, and was with Him after His resurrection. Peter had ample cause to love Jesus from first-hand experience. But the people he was writing to, like us today, did not see Jesus. Because of the work of God in giving new spiritual life and calling us to Himself, without having seen Jesus, we love Him.
How do we know we love Him? In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Love for Jesus is demonstrated by obeying His commands. Though we haven’t seen Him and don’t see him now, we believe in Him. In faith we perceive Him through His words in Scripture and the relationship we have with Him through prayer. Peter’s implication is that believers have an intimate relationship with Christ even though he has not been and is not now physically seen by the believer. They experience an unutterable joy, a joy language cannot fully express. That joy is glorious and exalted. It is joy infused with heavenly glory, possessing a radiance of that glory. Believe in Christ, rejoice in Him. Obtain through your faith, the salvation of your soul. By salvation Peter means the full possession of all the blessings of salvation.
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”1 Peter 1:10-12
Salvation “Prophesied and Realized”
Old Testament prophets bore witness to the grace which was to come to believers through Messiah. The prophets received the broad outline of God’s plan but did not receive the whole picture. Without fully understanding, they obediently wrote what the Holy Spirit revealed to them, realizing that their prophecy was for a future time.
We have the advantage of being able to look back and see Christ’s life and miracles as recorded by eyewitnesses. We know about His saving death on the cross and His resurrection. We read His promises and words of caution and instruction. We have heard the gospel preached to us from men guided by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Though the world may believe Christians are misguided and worthy of scorn, angels see reality from a heavenly perspective and are intensely interested in the Christian story longing to know the full story and its outcome. They know Christians are recipients of God’s greatest blessing, and “in Christ” they stand at the focal point of universal history.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”1 Peter 1:13-16
Be Holy as God is Holy!
Beginning with verse 1:13 and continuing through verse 2:3, Peter writes about every believer’s obligation to be holy. The word “holy” has two major meanings. The first meaning is associated with God’s transcendence, the difference or distinction between God and His creation. The secondary meaning is purity. For believers to be holy means their conduct is to be in accord with God’s truth. That truth is different from the pattern of the world. Practical holiness begins in the mind, influences behavior, and gradually changes the heart.
Sober consideration of what God has done should convince believers their proper response to salvation is to live holy lives, lives committed to be lived according to God’s ways and to His Glory. Believers have been chosen by God, begotten into a living hope and an assured inheritance, and have a glorious salvation both now and yet to come. To live as God intends requires preparing our minds for action, to be self-controlled and holy.
On the Way to Holiness
Concentrate and focus your mind, stay spiritually alert, sober-minded self-controlled, and set your hope fully on Jesus Christ. Believers must pay close attention to what they look at, what they listen to, and in general to anything they put into their minds. Believers are to strive to think biblically and carefully consider the long-range implications and consequences of their thoughts and actions rather than just think about immediate results. The manner in which thoughts and actions affect character is more important than immediate pleasures or rewards. It helps to begin each day doing something to renew one’s sense of reverence for God. It is good to pause from time to time during each day to remind ourselves that we belong to Christ.
Believers’ Purpose lies in God’s Purpose
Believers have been born into a living hope defined by God’s promises and actions. To live in hope that grows from God’s promises means deriving our sense of purpose from the goal God has set before us. God’s goal for His redeemed is that they be transformed into a character likeness of Christ. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who works within them to enable reaching that goal. Believers should do all within their power to cooperate with His gracious work. Cooperation does not happen automatically. It requires being proactive. Living an outwardly holy life is impossible unless inner resources are adequate. Peter says, prepare your minds! Paul says, be transformed by the renewing of your mind! Growing Christlike is not a mindless activity.
As obedient children in God’s family, believers should no longer conform to the passions that controlled them when they lived in ignorance. Rather they should be holy as God is holy, for so God has commanded. Luke 12:48 reminds us that to whom much is given, of that person much will be required. Is there any greater gift than salvation? No! Much is expected from every believer. The “much that is expected” begins with obedience. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15).
Obedience is the most profound form of worship. If we are obedient, then praise, prayer, study of God’s Word, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, spreading the gospel, and all other proper forms of worship follow. Obedience is worship in its purest form.
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 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.”1 Peter 1:17-21
The Judge and the Price of Our Ransom
As he continues to emphasize things which should motivate us to live holy lives, Peter reminds believers they should have a proper fear of God’s Fatherly discipline as the just Judge. God is the One who will judge though Christ what believers do, their emotions, and their thoughts. Reverent fear should help motivate the pleasing of God by living a life of holiness. When believers deliberately and frequently disobey God’s specific holy commands concerning how they are to live, they rightfully should fear God’s discipline and displeasure (1:17) (or for that matter, He should be feared when the “spirit of those commands” is violated).
God has redeemed us from a life of sin. The mind-bending price of that redemption was so astonishingly great it defies human understanding (1:18-19). God is impartial. That means He has the same rules for all humanity. Power, position, race, wealth, poverty and all the other conditions on earth have no bearing on how God will judge. The one thing we seriously need is God’s grace and mercy as Savior. He planned redemption in the counsels of eternity (1:20a). He sent forth His Son for believers’ sake (1:20b). He is the One whom believers even now depend on (1:21a). He raised Christ from the dead and glorified Him (1:21b). He is the One in whom we place all our trust and hope (1:21c). God whom believers fear is God whom believers are to trust in all things forever. He is God who planned and does only good for His redeemed from all eternity.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”1 Peter 1:22-25
Obedience to the Truth
In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” By obedience to the truth we purify our souls. But we fail to be fully obedient because purification of our souls is not yet complete. Purification proceeds as an upward spiral, the more obedient we are, the more we are purified, and the more purified we are, the greater our obedience. These verses begin with a call for believers, living as exiles in the world, to work for unity and community among themselves.
To achieve unity, Peter lists three requirements. First, unity requires obedience to the truth. We must not follow the patterns of the world. We are to obey the truth – God’s standard of what it means to be a believer as seen in the person of Christ. Secondly, it requires “purity of heart.” Pride, prejudices, grudges, and bitterness must be put aside. It means getting rid of those things in our behavior that would stand between brothers and sisters in Christ. Thirdly, unity requires “sincere love.” If we obey the truth and cleanse our heart, we will be free to love without hypocrisy. We should strive to eliminate our faults and be patient with the faults of others.
All believers are all children of the same heavenly Father. All have experienced the same rebirth, born again of imperishable seed. All are to express love. All are to get spiritual nourishment and instructions from the same source – the living, abiding Word of God. In eternity, brothers and sisters in Christ will be together forever in peace – it is the here and now where problems occur. Life is short, but the Word of the LORD remains forever.