Chosen Strangers

As we draw to the close of 2020, there is so much uncertainty in the world. Will COVID19 end? Can a vaccine actually be developed? Who actually won the election? In his first epistle, Peter offers some council for us in these difficult times.

 1 Peter is an amazing book. Although it is one of the smaller letters, there is much packed into this epistle, especially when it comes to enduring through difficult times. Peter wrote to encourage believers to keep on, to not lose heart, and to remember where there true home actually is. In the first chapter, this last point especially stands out. Check it out.

In his address, Peter says he was writing “to those who reside as aliens” (1 Peter 1:2). He’s not talking about flying saucers or UFO’s. Rather, he is making a statement about the believer’s relationship to this world. This is not our final home. As Peter would say a little later, we are “strangers” here (1 Peter 2:11). Paul echoes this by saying “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We do have a responsibility to be good citizens of whatever country we live in, but we must never forget that this is not our home.

Peter goes on. Not only was he writing “to…aliens,” but also “to those who” are “scattered” (1 Peter 1:2). They had no real home. They weren’t even together. Whether from persecution (I believe this is the background) or from another reason, these believers had spread throughout the empire. They were discouraged, disheartened, and some may even have despaired. “Why even try?” they might have asked. “We’re serving God, and all this keeps happening. Why don’t things get better?” The rest of the book really develops some of these themes.

But anyway, Peter has emphasized right off the bat that this world is not our home. But we are not forsaken. Oh no, the Holy Spirit—through Peter—doesn’t leave it there. While believers are both “aliens” and “scattered,” they “are chosen” (v. 2). They might be the outcasts of the world, but God had not cast them off. Absolutely not. Rather, He had called them for His own. Listen to how Peter expounds this.

In describing how we “are chosen,” he says we “are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (vv. 1, 2). Notice the keyword: “foreknowledge” (v. 2). God knew from before the world began what was happening to Peter’s original audience, and He knew what we are facing today. Another Biblical author would say, “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). Nero didn’t take God by surprise, and neither has COVID19. He knows all and He has lost none of His power.

Not only is “God the Father” involved in choosing us, but we “are chosen…by the sanctifying work of the Spirit” (vv. 1, 2). The Holy Spirit is the One who “will convict the world concerning sin and [the] righteousness” of Christ “and judgement” awaiting those who disbelieve (John 16:8). In another short epistle, Paul points to the fact that “God…saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4, 5). God is in control and has a plan of salvation. He is carrying out that plan through the Spirit who dwells in each one of us who believes. We have this Spirit.

Now we have to ask, we “are chosen” for what? (1 Peter 1:1). Sure, God has called us through the Spirit, but for what purpose? Peter doesn’t leave us hanging. He says we “are chosen…to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood” (vv. 1, 2). We are called to serve Jesus and be purified from sin.

This obedience to Jesus is “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Rather, they are for our good. He has given us His commands because of His love. Paul says this “love…surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). We cannot know the depths of God’s love for us. Sure, sin may seem pleasurable in the moment, but it always brings destruction (more on this in a future post). His commandments are for our best, for our true good.

With all that said, however, this obedience in verse 3 may actually refer to salvation. Consider how belief and obedience are used as synonyms in John 3:36. Luke says that “a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Finally, consider how Paul says that “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). To obey Jesus in this way is to obey God’s command to “repent” and “believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 2:38; 16:31).

This corresponds with the second part of what we are called for, and that’s “to…b sprinkled with His blood” (1 Peter 1:2). Sprinkling with blood, to a Jewish mind, represented purification from sin. Consider what Hebrews says on this subject—

“For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.’ And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

Hebrews 9:19-22

 Boom, there you go. We are cleansed from sin, not because of our own merits, but because of Christ’s righteousness, because of His blood. As Paul would say, “we have redemption through His blood” (Ephesians 1:7). Our salvation is secure in Jesus because it rests entirely upon Him. Now this does not give us license to sin. Just read the rest of the book for that.

But let’s wrap this all back together. While believers may face difficult and bewildering times, we “are chosen” by “God the Father” through “the Spirit” for a salvation in “Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1, 2). All three members of the Trinity are involved here. We are not outcast, not forsaken, not cast off. We are beloved of God and He has worked out His plan to save us and bring us into relationship with Himself. While we do not have a lasting home here, we do have one we await.

And we know God is with us even now by how Peter closes out his greeting. He blesses the audience by saying, “May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (v. 2). We can have “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,” even now (Philippians 4:7). We have His empowerment through His “grace” (1 Peter 1:2). We have these, not just in a small amount, but “in the fullest measure” (v. 2). We don’t have to sit around worrying and being anxious. This doesn’t describe a mere existence. Peter says believers can have an abundance of “grace and peace” now because they “are chosen” by the Trinity and await a heavenly home (vv. 1, 2).

Our hope has nothing to do with current circumstances, but rests entirely upon our God. He is not surprised by the fires, the hurricanes, the elections, the virus, or anything else 2020 might throw at us. He’s in control, and He has a plan. That plan is to grow us now as we await our final home. That home is sure, it is settled, and we should look forward to it with great expectation. And how Peter describes this home is what we’ll look at next time.

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