O the joy of being a reject for the glory of God Pt. 1
This is part of a manuscript I wrote for a sermon I did over 1 Peter 1:1-2.
In order to understand what the phrase “God’s chosen exiles” means for the Christian life, there must be a comprehension of to whom and for what reasons Peter wrote this letter. We can gather from the opening verse of chapter one that Peter introduces himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus, establishing his authority to be writing, but then proceeds into saying something very unique and central to his overall reason for writing. Peter addresses the recipients of his letter as “elect exiles of the dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1). What could this mean?
By calling his recipients “elect exiles”, Peter can only have one audience in mind. To put it simply, the church! While this letter may be addressed to the church, Peter has good reason for doing so. His aim is to teach the church about how to prosper in the faith, trust in God, remember the works and teachings of Christ, and all while enduring suffering in this world as God’s elect exiles. This letter is filled with reminders of encouragement of how to suffer for the glory of God, a timely teaching for the world then and the world now.
It can be seen from the writing of Peter that the church was made up of a mixture of people, both Jew and Gentile. It has widely been accepted that Peter’s letter was writing primarily for a Jewish audience, but Scripture within the letter itself may not indicate that to be necessarily true. Consider 1 Peter 1:18, “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers”, and 1 Peter 2:10, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’ people”. Both verses would indicate something not normally attributed to Jewish Christians.
However, this is not to say that there were not Jewish believers in the church congregations either. It is historical fact that many types of diverse people were mixed during this time. We get a picture of this from Acts 2:9. However, this does not mean that we cannot gather an even more beautiful picture of Christ from this mixture, because the mixture of Jew and Gentile in the churches goes to show that in Christ the wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down making the two people one in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2: 11-22).
With this information in mind, it leads us to our full discussion of the text itself. Within these opening two verses of 1 Peter, there are three major themes that jump out. 1.) God electing individuals to become the church which in turn are the “elect exiles” spoken of. 2.) There is a Trinitarian understanding of election in which the reader sees the origin, the experience, and the goal of election. 3.) There is also a reminder from Peter that though believers are still sinners and sin willingly sometimes, there is continual restoration in our relationship to God through the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood. It is a very humbling reminder indeed.
Right from the start, Peter wants his readers to understand something of monumental importance. He wants them to grasp the fact that they, who are true believers in Christ, are in fact elect. The doctrine of election is such a controversial theme in today’s society that it can cause serious divisions in the church body. However devastating this may be, and it is very unfortunate, Peter is opening his letter with a greeting about the doctrine of election. If doctrine of election is so notorious for being held in low regards, why in the world would Peter open his letter talking about it? Peter understands what many of us today may not ever come to terms with, and that is the fact that God is completely sovereign and holy, even in the calling to salvation Christians.
What is even more striking about these “elect” that Peter mentions is an understanding of their true identity as those who are elect. They are exiles; they are aliens; they are sojourners as some other translations put it. When you seriously think about what it means to be an alien, exile, or sojourner, the first thing that comes to mind is a sense of not belonging. When we hear about immigrants entering into the country illegally, we think of them as not belonging. They are refugees to our country and their home is of another place. A negative example would be to consider what a foreign bacterium is to the human body. When the human body senses a strange life form, it tries to do away with it; the body does not like the intruder. In much the same way, only in a positive sense, Christians are these aliens or exiles chosen by God to this way of life. Our home is not here in this world, but with Jesus in heaven.
Consider these passages, John 16: 32-33,
“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”.
John 17: 14-19,
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth”.
As is evident from these two passages, our place is not of this world, but our mission is to be here as those elect exiles of the faith and endure for the sake of Christ. Our true identity as believers in Jesus is to be those aliens. However, Peter does not stop there, but goes directly into a Trinitarian explanation of how it is and for what reasons God has chosen to elect His exiles.