This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Introduction to First Peter

I Peter was written to suffering believers. In the 105 verses, I find at least thirty-four references to suffering, beginning in the very first verse; fifteen of those references are actually some form of the word suffer. Throughout the epistle Peter gives instruction about suffering; he especially desires that these suffering believers make a difference in their world, handling their suffering in a way that impacts others.

Being able to influence others in significant ways (when the suffering one would seemingly be the one needing help) would require something special. That kind of person would need a strong foundation, a profound hope, and a deep relationship with God. He would need insight and understanding about God and His work.

Peter provides that needed insight. In fact, the early part of the epistle focuses on those foundations rather than on suffering itself, as Peter lays the groundwork for what a suffering believer needs to know and think about. 1:1 introduces the suffering. 1:6-7 talks about suffering. 1:11 mentions suffering (Christ's). After this handful of mentions, this book saturated with the theme of suffering does not mention the topic again until 2:11 (a gap of 25 verses).

Instead Peter talks about what God has done for these believers. He talks about how God saved them, gave them new life, holds an inheritance for them, protects them, gave His Word to them, has a hope waiting for them, purchased them with a precious price, helps them to grow, shows His kindness to them, puts them in a special position, provides an example for them, and so on. Peter expounds these wonderful truths about the hope found in God so that the believers can endure the suffering and can be what they need to be through it.

After acknowledging in the first verse that his audience is made up of persecuted saints who have been chased from their homeland and scattered as aliens in foreign lands, Peter shares some wonderful truth. "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" (1:1-2).

More important than the fact that these believers were scattered was the fact that they were chosen. These people were selected as favorites, as extremely special. This choosing was not by fairly insignificant people like neighbors or society, nor by special people like family or friends, nor even by powerful people like employers or rulers. No, they were chosen by God Himself. Being chosen by any of those other people would lack both the temporal significance and the eternal ramifications of being chosen by God. God's choosing means everything.

The believers were chosen by the foreknowledge of God. God knew ahead of time that He would choose them, because He has had all knowledge for all eternity. God receives all who believe, and He has always known who those believers would be. Throughout every moment of eternity and history, God has simply been waiting for them to be born and believe so that the choosing could come to fruition. For eternity, God knew each individual and thought, "Someday John or Mary will turn to Me, and I anticipate receiving him/her practically, as he/she is already chosen in My heart."

Part of God's foreknowledge is that He has also always known every person intimately. He knows every flaw, every shortcoming, every failure, every rebellion, every sin. He knows the wickedness and deceitfulness of the heart. Knowing all that, being completely aware of their condition both before and after salvation, God still chose them. Such unworthy people were chosen as special by the Most Worthy One.

The believers were chosen by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The Spirit purified them and made them holy. This is why God can choose such horrible and unpredictable people: because He has the power to change them. They do not continue to be who they were before. There is an immediate change as God makes them new creatures and imputes Christ's righteousness to them, and there is an ongoing change as God progressively sanctifies them. This dramatic change cannot happen by self-effort, but only as the indwelling Holy Spirit teaches and convicts.

The first purpose for being chosen was to obey Jesus Christ. These believers are to hearken attentively to Jesus, comply with His wishes, and submit to His commands. They should desire to know what Jesus wants them to do, find it out, and then agree to do it. As a believer grows in sanctification, he will become more successful in obeying Christ. Obedience is the demonstration that sanctification is happening.

The second purpose for being chosen was to be sprinkled with Jesus' blood. Jesus' sacrifice paid for their sins. While obeying is in active voice, being sprinkled is in passive voice. It is a fact that when the Spirit sanctified these believers, without any effort or merit of their own, God chose to apply Christ's redemptive blood to them. This sprinkling established the relationship to God once for all, not through deserving or earning, but wholly because God chose them.

After this description of the amazing and completely unmerited blessing of God in choosing them, Peter indicates that the blessing is not exhausted. He desires for them grace and peace in the fullest measure. He wants these great blessings to be added on to their already wonderful position. He wants God to pour out on them rich and abundant expressions of His favor, giving them undeserved blessings. He wants God to give them quietness and rest in their knowledge of the complete provision of God. In fact, when God chose these believers, He extended the ultimate grace and the profoundest peace. Peter desires that these qualities multiply and abound so that these chosen and blessed believers will have every bit of grace and peace possible to face their suffering appropriately and triumphantly.

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