God’s Word for You
1 Peter 1:1-2 A Letter to God’s Elect
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 16, 2022
We turn now to First Peter, which could also be called “The Epistle (or even Gospel) of God’s Grace.” The letter is fairly brief, just five chapters, but it touches on several key doctrines including the Christian life, the requirements of holiness, and the duties of husbands and wives to one another. It was one of Martin Luther’s favorites.
The date is sometime between AD 60 (after Paul’s prison letters have been circulated) and AD 68 (Peter’s death).
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the elect, temporary residents in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Peter stresses his role as a called apostle, not to lord it over the Christians he writes to, but (first) to reassure them that he is the one whose name was changed by Jesus from Simon to Peter (“rock,” Matthew 16:18), and (second) to say that he is writing in the capacity of one who was commissioned by Jesus Christ.
The recipients of the letter are “the elect,” those chosen by God in eternity to be his believers. God is the one who made the choice in our election (Ephesians 1:3-4), and we should point out that it is the whole Triune God, the Trinity, that chose us; chose you and me. This election is a clear act of God from eternity: “God called us not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (1 Timothy 2:8). So our election to salvation through Christ is purely an act of God’s grace, of God’s choice, and not based on any of our personal merits or choices. The work of the Trinity in this election as well as in our salvation is fleshed out for us in verse 2. Our election is…
- According to the foreknowledge of God the Father
- By the sanctifying work of the Spirit
- Sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ
The sanctified elect believers to whom Peter writes are the Christians of Asia Minor: Pontus in the north (along the shore of the Black Sea), Galatia in the central mountains, Cappadocia in the east, Asia along the western coast (and home of Revelation’s “seven churches,” Revelation 1:11), and Bithynia in the northwest, which brings us full circle because it touches Pontus. Three of these places, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, were represented by the people converted at Pentecost (Acts 2:9). The Galatians, however, were the special nation to which Paul had preached (Acts 16:6, 18:23; Galatians 1:2, 3:1).
So why would Peter be writing to the Galatians and their neighbors? Part of this question might be answered by Peter’s predominance in the Pentecost account; he was generally known in some way by almost every Christian, at least by name and reputation. But since the Galatian churches were founded by Paul, why wasn’t Paul writing to them?
The best answer to this is found in Romans 15:24 and 15:28. Paul tells the Romans, “When I go to Spain, I hope to visit you when I am passing through.” So if Paul carried out his plan, heading to the very edge of the Roman Empire and taking the gospel to Spain, he would have been out of touch for at least a year and probably more. Therefore, if there were some need for Paul’s churches in Asia Minor to be encouraged by an Apostle, then Peter was a good choice.
“Grace and peace,” Peter says, “be multiplied to you.” Grace is a unique kind of love that only God truly has. God’s grace is his attitude or disposition that is this: He loves us because he is loving. And the result of God’s gracious love is that we have peace. This peace is the true, spiritual peace we have because we are made right with God by being justified by faith in Christ. Consider:
- The righteous person has peace with God but affliction, persecution, and hostility from the world, because he lives in the Spirit.
- The unrighteous person has peace with the world but affliction, tribulation and judgment from God because he lives in the flesh.
- Just as the Spirit is eternal, the peace of the Christian is eternal (and the tribulation and agony of the unrighteous will be eternal).
- Just as the flesh is temporal and temporary, the tribulation of the Christian is temporal and temporary, and any peace that the unbeliever has is also temporary and fleeting.
The elect are blessed. Our delight is in the word of God, on that word we meditate day and night. “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6)
INTRODUCTION TO 1 PETER (Part 1)
We firmly believe the author of this letter to be Peter the Apostle as he announces in the very first verse. It is necessary in our century to add that we do not believe the letter, nor the second letter, to be a forgery. This was an opinion expressed in previous years. Lenski says: “Why a forger should use the name of Peter in a letter addressed to congregations that were for the most part founded by Paul is beyond comprehension” (Commentary on 1 Peter, p. 7-8). It is likewise so unlikely as to be impossible that the church (the very ones addressed in the letter) would be duped into accepting a late forgery, and one that associated Paul’s companions Silas and Mark, with Peter. If it were a forgery, where are the protests of the ancient Christians, the elect of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, crying out, “Forgery! We’ve never seen this letter!”? They all say the opposite. “This is the letter Peter sent us.”
There is also the testimony of the earliest church and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. First, and most important, Clement of Rome, writing at the end of the first century, perhaps while the Apostle John was still living:
- “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Clement 30:2 = 1 Peter 5:5 [but also Proverbs 3:34]).
- “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Clement 49:5 = 1 Peter 4:8)
Also Polycarp, in the early second century:
- “Let us be eager to do good” (Polycarp 6:3 = 1 Peter 3:13)
- “Christ, who bore our sins in his body on the tree (Pol. 8:1 = 1 Peter 2:24)
- “Who committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (Pol. 8:2 = 1 Peter 2:22)
Also the letter known as Barnabas (not the Biblical Barnabas), in the middle of the second century:
- “The Lord will judge the world impartially” (Barn. 4:12 = 1 Peter 1:17)
And there is also the Shepherd of Hermas, not long after:
- “You life has been saved and will be saved through water” (Hermas Hv 3,3,5 = 1 Peter 3:20-21)
- “Cast your care upon God” (Hv 4,2,4, 4,2,5 = 1 Peter 5:7)
- “Your sacrifice will be acceptable to God” (Hv 5,3,8 = 1 Peter 2:5)
There are other examples, some less important (Hs 5,1,5 and 1 Peter 1:21), but this is enough. Peter is the author.
Sometime during the 60s AD. The letter cannot have been written before AD 60 because Peter is clearly aware of and acquainted with Paul’s prison Epistles (Ephesians Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon). It cannot have been written after Peter’s death, which we think happened in about 68 AD.
Pastor Timothy Smith