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Bible Study Commentary

1 PETER

Lesson 1:  Our True Identity 

1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,  2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: 

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 

Just like in modern times, ancient letters has standard form which consists of five parts:

Recognizing the form of an epistle will help you in reading the passage in its context and assists in following the flow of the author’s thought.  

From the list given above, what part of the ancient letter can our current passage (1:1-2) be identified?

answer:  Our current passage contains the first two parts of a typical ancient letter.  These parts are the salutation and the greeting.  

1.  Salutation (writer and recipient): 

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,  2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:" 

2. Greeting:  "Grace and peace be yours in abundance."

What is the theme of Peter's introduction?

answer:  The theme is about the true identity of a Christian and the salvation they have received from God. This theme is an important point in the message of the entire letter. (See theme of the letter in the Introduction.)

What does "strangers in the world" really mean (1:1)?

answer:  The statement doesn’t necessarily refer to our "spiritual" status as aliens to this world and heaven as our real home. This phrase can also be taken as a literal description of the recipients as people whose social status are sojourners in their geographical location. This can have implications of a lower social status compared to the citizens in their area.

It is very common to interpret this phrase as a metaphorical description of our citizenship in heaven. The NIV added "in the world" both here and in 2:11; however, "in the world" does not appear in the original Greek. The NIV alludes towards a more metaphorical meaning rather than a possible literal description about the recipients. Note how this 'addition' can influence our interpretation. 

NASB and KJV translations are more preferable. Both follow the original Greek literally: "to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus , Galatia , Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia , who are chosen".

This analysis concerning "strangers in the world" is important to our understanding of the original recipient's suffering (v.6). Their suffering or trials can be seen, not only as the result of their faith, but also because of their social status. They are compared to foreign emigrants in our current society, which does not have the rights of a citizen and sometimes can be the object of discrimination. They cannot call their residential location as their home.

Some will insist that Peter is making a metaphorical rather than a literal description about the recipients. This shouldn't alarm us, since both can be a possibility in this passage. We need to see how our interpretation will fit in the context of our current passage and on the letter as a whole.  

 

What are other descriptions of the recipients (1:1-2) of the letter?

answer: These Christians are God’s elect or chosen ones(1) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, (2) through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and, (3) for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

Here we have three phrases that relate to a Christian's salvation, possibly an early church liturgical formula.  It contains references to the Trinity: the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and their function with the plan of salvation. The first two phrases points to God’s work in the life of a Christian, while the last one is a response to the work of God in their life.  

“ according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”

Did God choose individual Christians because He knew they would believe in Him?  Or God choose them and that’s why they believed in Him?  

answer:  This phrase can easily lead us into the debate about "Once-Saved-Always-Save", but it should be noted here that Peter didn’t necessarily indicate a direct answer to this theological debate.  So we can simply say that the phrase only informs the believers that their salvation (election) is not an accidental event, but it is a part of God's salvation plan from the very beginning.  It is God who initiated a person's salvation by choosing them first before they chose Him.

 

“through the sanctifying work of the Spirit”  

What does sanctification mean? 

answer: It refers to the continuous work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to transform us into the image of Christ. In context, it refers to the work of the Holy Spirit drawing people to turn to God. 

 

“for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood”  

What is the purpose of our salvation? 

answer:  To become obedient to Jesus Christ and to be "sprinkled by his blood."  The thought of obedience is repeated in verses 14 and 22.

What does "sprinkling by his blood" mean? 

answer:  It may refer to the forgiveness and cleansing of sins, not only once but continuously. It goes together with obedience.  Also it refers to the believers acceptance or entrance in the New Covenant; the New Covenant brought by the death of Jesus Christ. (see  Exodus 24:3-8; here the people accepted the covenant by promising to be obedient to the Lord’s command; see also Hebrew 9:18-21; 10:22; 12:24.  New Covenant see Hebrew 8).

 How  would you paraphrase the message of the letter's salutation? 

answer:  Although alien (lower class) in their society, the believers are actually special because, through the Holy Spirit's sanctification, they were chosen by the Father to be obedient to Jesus Christ as members of the New Covenant established by his blood.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”  

Is there any significance with these greetings?

answer:  This greeting is very common among the New Testament epistles.  The greeting of “grace” is common among Greco-Romans while “peace” is common among Jews.  This greetings is also typical among the New Testament epistles.  Usually, Paul uses this greeting with a statement that both grace and peace are from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (see Colossians 1:2; Philippians 1:2).

 

Present Application

Present Application is an important part of study because this is where the Bible will become relevant in our lives today. 

We must be aware that these verses are the introduction of the letter: the salutation and the greeting, and not the main body of the letter.  We should be careful not to overdo our interpretation by trying to add more meaning to the author’s original intent. 

Although we are centuries apart from the original recipient and we are part of a different social strata, there are principles from this simple introduction that will help us in our daily lives. 

How significant it is for us to know that God has chosen us? 

answer: As aliens in their land, that is, people that belong to a lower class in a society, the early Christians were encouraged to know that God had chosen them to be His people.  For all of us, especially for those who have not accomplished much in this life or had experienced rejection, the fact that God has chosen us from the beginning, in spite of who we are, is an encouragement and will give us more reasons to live our lives in obedience to Him.

How can we live in complete obedience to Jesus Christ?

answer: We need to know what the Bible is telling us today.  It is utterly useless to have all the desire to obey God, but remain ignorant with what God's Word is telling us; much more if  we misinterpret the Bible.  This is the reason why we need to learn proper biblical interpretation. 

Is there anything else that you can learn from Lesson 1? How would you apply it to your life today?

answer: [Write in your answer]

Summary Lesson 1:  Peter opens up his letter by reminding his readers of who they are: they are God's chosen people.  Their identity is now based on who they were before God and not on who they were in their godless society. They have a new purpose: to be in complete obedience with Jesus Christ.  They have been forgiven and cleansed by Jesus' blood from all sins.  The believers are empowered by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to live godly lives. This is exactly what Peter will expound in the rest of the letter.  Peter will show them the greatness of their salvation and  how they should now live their lives.   Such a message is relevant for us today for we are facing the same type of struggles.  Living in obedience with Jesus Christ often causes us to live opposite and conflicting principles from those that are around us.  Let's go to Lesson 2.

 

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