REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN
1 PETER 1:1-2:3, Key Verse 7
The author’s original name was Simon when he first became a follower of Jesus and he was part of the inner circle of the twelve disciples. When he made the confession that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus changes his name to ‘Kephas’ which is Aramaic for ‘rock’ and which in Greek translation is ‘Petros’ or Peter. Eventually Peter becomes a key leader in the early Jerusalem church and is called to carry the good news beyond the borders of Israel. In this letter, we learned that Peter is in Rome and interestingly enough, we also learn that while Peter commissioned this letter it was actually composed by his coworker Silas. This circular letter was then sent out to multiple church communities in the Roman province of Asia minor which is modern day Turkey. And Peter later discovers that these Gentiles, or non-Jewish Christians are being persecuted, facing hostility and harassment from their Greek and Roman neighbors. So, Peter wrote to encourage them in the midst of their suffering. The purpose was to help them maintain the integrity of their faith and to help them see that through Jesus they now belong to the family of Abraham or rather a new family identity. My message has two parts.
Part I. Joy through suffering
Peter’s letter begins with a greeting by appropriately addressing his readers as Gods chosen people. Look at verse 1, “To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, (Cappa-da-see-ah), Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.” Wouldn’t you like to be addressed this way? This is definitely a great attention getter to an opening letter. As Peter quickly captures the reader, he eagerly delivers a precious reminder to take heart and continue to endure their life of faith by praising God for everything he has done for them. Look at verses 3-4a “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.
Through Peter’s eyes, I can see his concern for these church communities. As leader and Apostle of God, Peter felt compelled to reach out and offer a message of encouragement and hope. It was his priestly duty to uplift the downtrodden. It was his care to make sure that God’s people are comforted especially during times of trials. And, unlike the Israelites who failed to appreciate and accept the blessing as being the original chosen people of God, Peter also understood the importance of reminding these Gentiles that they had become the new chosen ones. These non-Jewish Christians were now the new Exodus who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, the new covenant, the new Temple, and the foundation of Jesus himself and finally, the new Kingdom of Priests who are serving God as his representatives to the nations. As I attempted to go inside the mind of Peter, I imagined the letter saying something like “Let me remind you all that you are Gods new people who have been tasked to become His newly kingdom of priests. Therefore, I urge you to please stay the course and remember that the Israelites failed to glorify our Father. Please do not make the same mistake and fulfill Gods mission that has been set forth for you. God has chosen you, remember that.”
And to further bolster their faith in Gods salvation for them, Peter highlights in verse 5 that “their inheritance is kept in heaven who through faith is being shielded by Gods power until the second coming of Christ Jesus.” Doesn’t this give you a peace of mind? An inheritance waiting for you. And do not worry about having your treasure being taken away from you, for God imposed his fierce cybersecurity measures by protecting your inheritance with his mighty and powerful shield!
So, what should we do with this information? How should we respond? Look at verse 6, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” Yes, you have suffered. Yes, you will continue to suffer. And yes, I understand your pain, Peter says. But the end result, the thing that you must hold on to dearly, the very thing that will enable you to remain in the fight and endure your daily struggle is to hold on to Gods given new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ and the inheritance that awaits you in heaven! And, by the way, remember that you have been chosen.
As a result, we can see that the joy is in our inheritance, and in the anticipation of the 2nd coming of Christ Jesus. In the meantime, God will provide you with spiritual necessities so that you may continue to keep on keeping on keeping on. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Christ did not give up on us, so we cannot give up on him. We too must endure our cross. This in return provides us with a promising result. Look at verse 7 “These sufferings have come so that the proven genuineness of our faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Our salvation and our sufferings come from the hand of a sovereign God who chose us in eternity past, who has drawn us to Himself through His spirit. Through him we have been born again to a living hope. Peter then turns our focus to the future, the hope we have in Christ of a salvation which is absolutely certain. Look at verses 8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of you faith, the salvation of your souls.” As we live our lives in this fallen world, we do suffer for the time being, but our suffering has been sent our way by God to produce a very positive effect. On the one hand, it demonstrates the reality of genuine faith, and on the other it strengthens our faith, all to the glory of God. And strangely enough, we can view suffering and persecution as a gift because it burns away false hopes and distractions like purifying fire and it reminds us of our true home and hope. Paradoxically, life’s hardships actually deepen our faith, they make it more genuine. In this we are to rejoice as we await the outcome of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls.
As for Verses 10-12, according to Bible.org, Peter helps his fellow believers keep their suffering in perspective by making two comparisons. He first compares the old testament prophets to new testament saints and then he compares new testament saints to angels. Peter is saying that we must also suffer like the prophets for the sake of Christ. The blessings we have received through these prophets, came at great cost to them. The prophets spoke to men and women of their own time, but they also spoke of things yet to come to pass. The prophets spoke of Gods salvation by grace and not by works. However, these prophets did not fully comprehend everything. They conveyed the message of Gods salvation, but the meaning of their message was not known until Christ actually came. As for the angels, Peter tells us their eyes are fixed on the earth. There is a greater glory yet to be fulfilled, and the angles cannot wait to witness it. They just like the prophets do not understand in advance just how these things will come to pass. This is what was meant when Peter mentions at the end of verse 12 “Even angels long to look into these things.” Therefore, no one has ever been more privileged than we. With this firm foundation, we can go about our lives unshaken by persecution and tribulation, with our hope fixed on the grace that is yet to come.
Part II. Victory through hope
While Peter addressed to God’s elect on why they should remain in the fight and endure their daily struggle during the first half of this passage, Peter then takes us into the how of things and explains how we can maintain our faith and fight back. Look at verses 13-16, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘be holy, because I am holy.’ Peter first tells his readers to be holy in all you do. As Gentiles they once lived in ignorance (they did not know the ways of God). But they are now a holy nation, part of God’s own people, and are called to a new way of life. Also, Peter is encouraging us that when nothing else works, try your best to emulate God. Since he is holy, then we too should be holy. How then, can we become holy? We can start off by setting something aside for God. Something that is only for him and no one else.
Being holy also means to maintain our eyes heavenward and not become too attached to this world. Look at verse 17, “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” And we see why in verses 18-19, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Therefore, since our source of life comes from an imperishable seed, holding on to this world has no value whatsoever.
Peter then calls attention to the fact that sequential order is important, and that Christ comes first. And then he follows by underlining how Christ is the catalyst that drives our faith and hope. Look at verses 20-21 “He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
And to lift their spirits all the more, the author serves the reader with the most important reminder. Verse 22 reads, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. Peter then continues by saying “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” And just like the grass and the flowers wither and fall, our own glory will also wither and fall one day. The word of God, however, will continue to bloom and endure forever. This is the word that was preached to you Peter reminds us.
And in case you ever doubted what evil looks like, Peter specifies in the first three verses of chapter 2, that in order to maintain our holiness we must eliminate the things that make us ugly and rather crave for spiritual growth. It says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
In conclusion, Peter’s first letter is a powerful reminder of Christian hope in the midst of suffering. Gods people have been a misunderstood minority from the very beginning and they should expect to face hostility because they have chosen to live under the rule of a different King, Jesus. However, persecution can become a strange gift to the church because it offers a chance to show others the surprising generosity and love of Jesus which is fueled by the hope of his return. Moreover, this letter highlighted how God chose the Gentiles as his new chosen people. Through that, Peter reminded us all of the importance of remembering who we are and what we represent. In addition, we also learned that becoming holy like Christ, not attaching ourselves to this world, riding ourselves from all malice, and rather crave for spiritual growth are all ways that can help us maintain our faith and endure our daily struggles.
Furthermore, we also saw how persecutions can actually help bring clarity to our mission in the world. Even though we have been liberated, we ought to demonstrate that freedom- not through rebellion but instead by resisting evil the same way Jesus did through showing love and generosity to his enemies. Because the real enemy, this hostility is not cultural or political. They are dark forces of spiritual evil at work that are inspiring hatred and violence and it is our job to resist this evil by staying faithful to Jesus and his teachings and by anticipating his return and ultimate victory over such evil. God is inviting all people into a new family centered around Jesus. A family that has a new identity as Gods children who have a new hope of a world reborn by Gods love when Jesus returns as King. And this is how we can celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving.