Summary: There are few places in God’s Word where one can find a better or briefer characterization of a Christian than here.
CHARACTERISTIC OF A CHRISTIAN
INTRO: Many times the true greatness and splendor of a New Testament passage lies not only on the surface or in that which is actually said. Often the greatness of a passage stems from the ideas and convictions that lie behind it. That is true in these two verses of 1 Peter 1.
Evidently the people to whom Peter is writing are Gentiles. However, in these verses Peter takes words and concepts that had originally applied only to Jews and applies them to people once thought to be outside the mercy of God, but now are spoken of as God’s own chosen people.
There are few places in God’s Word where one can find a better or briefer characterization of a Christian than here.
I. GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE (v. 2).
Peter first affirms that Christians are God’s chosen people. At one time only Israel was considered God’s chosen people, but they failed to fulfill God’s purpose for them as a nation, and they rejected Jesus when he came into the world. When he gave the parable of the wicked husbandman He was saying that their inheritance was going to be taken from them and given to others.
When Peter used the term elect (chosen, NIV) to characterize Christians he was describing their relation to God. Surely there can be no greater complement or privilege in all the world than to be chosen by God.
A challenge as well as a compliment lies in this thought, for God always chooses for service. The honor of being chosen is fulfilled in being used in the plan and purpose of God. This is where the Jews failed. They were willing to accept the compliment but refused to measure up to the challenge.
The passage also mentions certain facts connected with election.
1. The Christian is chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, which is the basis for our election. All is according to the plan and purpose of God who can see the end from the beginning. When trials and disappointments come, let us remember that our calling is of God.
2. The Christian is chosen to be sanctified or set apart by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is essential to every part of the Christian life and every step in it. He is the agent in election. He convinces us that we are sinners and leads us to the Savior who forgives our sin. He strengthens us spiritually and enables us to walk the way of complete dedication to God.
3. The Christian is chosen for obedience. Obedience is the Christian’s way of bearing testimony to the world that he is one of God’s elect.
II. SOJOURNERS IN THE WORLD (v.1).
Peter’s second word of characterization for the Christian is sojourner or alien (Stranger, NIV). If his first word of characterization describes the Christian’s relation to God, the second word describes his relation to the world. He refers to his readers as sojourners of the dispersion, another word that has a distinctly Jewish flavor. The "dispersion" referred to all Jews who lived outside of Palestine. No matter where the Jew lived his supreme allegiance was to Jerusalem and he considered himself an alien or a sojourner when living elsewhere.
According to Peter, the Christian should consider himself as alien or a sojourner in relation to the world. His allegiance belongs to God in Christ and his home is in eternity. The Christian must not withdraw from the world. He is not to be aloof to the needs of those about him nor is he to remove himself from the arena of conflict. As Steve Green has sung in his song, the Christian must not be "so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good." However, Christ said the Christian must be in the world but not of it. He may pass his days on earth but his citizenship is in heaven.
CONC: The message of this passage, in brief, is that the Christian is a part of God’s chosen people. This fact places a heavy responsibility upon him to live before the world in a manner that proclaims him one of God’s elect.