Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 1:1-2
The Privileges of Election
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 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.
How does it feel to know you are special and loved? How does it feel to be promoted or to be set apart for special favor?
In this passage and in this book, Peter is seeking to encourage Christians who are being mistreated and persecuted for their faith. They are scattered among five Roman provinces in modern-day Turkey, probably seeking to hide for safety from Nero who is burning Christians at the stake and having their lands confiscated.
Peter seeks to encourage them by sharing with them how special they are to God. He starts off the passage saying they are “elect.” Election is often a controversial doctrine among Christians, but here it is given as an encouragement. He then talks about what happens to those who are elect. He talks about how each person of the triune God is involved in their salvation. God the Father elects them, the Son dies for them and sprinkles his blood on them, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies them to make them holy. Believers are special among the people in the world.
In the letter of First Peter, we learn about how to deal with persecution. Peter, the apostle who initially denied Christ at the prospect of death, writes a book to encourage people who are suffering and to teach them how to suffer. After his initial lapse of faith, in the book of Acts we see a man empowered by the Holy Spirit and encouraged by the resurrection of the dead. No more does he cower in fear, but he speaks boldly and suffers valiantly for Christ in the face of persecution.
Now he writes to strengthen the brethren who are receiving the same attacks that he previously encountered. In the first two sentences, Peter seeks to encourage these suffering saints by their election and the benefits of this election. Even though the world mocks them and persecutes them, they are loved by God. This would encourage them in their suffering and it should encourage us as well. Peter tells them that they are different from the world because they are so special to God.
Big Question: What are the privileges of God’s election that should encourage the believer in suffering as seen in 1 Peter 1:1–2? How should these privileges practically affect our lives?
The Elect Are Chosen by God
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect…who have been chosen.
Interpretation Question: What does it mean to be chosen and elect by God?
One of the things that should comfort believers in this world, especially amidst suffering, is recognizing that they are elect by God. The word elect really means to be chosen by God as mentioned in verse 2. The world rejects believers because of their belief system, their lifestyle, and because they choose to not condone or participate in sin. However, even though they are rejected by the world, they are chosen by God. Christ said this to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you (emphasis mine) and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16).
Election is often a doctrine that gets many people upset, but as we see here, this doctrine was the treasure of the saints. It was such a treasure that it had become a common title among the saints. They were elect ones (1 Pet 1:1).
Why did God choose these saints? It had nothing to do with their good works, but it was a work of sovereign grace. Look at what Paul says in Romans about the election of Jacob:
Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (emphasis mine).
In Jewish society the oldest was always chosen to receive the blessing and the inheritance, but in God’s economy it is always a work of grace—unmerited favor. God chose Jacob not based on anything he had done, for the twins, Jacob and Esau, weren’t even born yet.
It says, “In order that God’s purpose in election might stand, not by works but by him who calls” (v. 11). God selected the younger brother to receive the blessing. In the same way, election is a mystery to us. It is based on God’s sovereign right as king and not on the basis of anything we have done.