Summary: Presents the work of the Trinity in bringing salvation
What I will first note is that we are reading an epistle. An epistle is not, as one young student guessed, the wife of an apostle! It is a letter. This letter, as with most of the letters or epistles, starts off with the standard form of address. We begin with “Dear… “ and do not put our names down until the end of the letter. The ancient form began with the identity of the sender and then addressed the recipient.
The NT writers follow this pattern, which, again, is not unique or significant. What is significant is how they identify themselves and how they address their readers. Each address becomes a theological statement and more often than not hints at what is to come in the letter. Peter is no different. Let’s see what he has to say.
Who We Are
Peter ascribes to himself the term apostle of Jesus Christ. We might say, “That’s what he was. How else would he label himself?” In his next letter he refers to himself as “servant and apostle.” Apostle is the term most widely used by the letter writers, but others refer to themselves as servants of Christ, one as a servant and brother of Christ. John refers to himself simply as “the elder.” Paul mostly uses the term “apostle,” but he often adds to the title phrases such as “by the will of God”; in Galatians he says an apostle – sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. Paul uses such elaborate ascriptions in order to impress on his readers that he indeed possesses the authority of an apostle, which apparently is questioned since he is not one of the original disciples of Jesus.
Peter does not have that problem, and when he uses the term “apostle,” he seems to be conveying the original meaning of the term, i.e. of being a messenger. He is one who has been sent out by Jesus Christ to proclaim the message of the gospel. And so he is writing to Christians to whom he had gone out with his message. Another translation of the word is “ambassador,” one who represents someone else in authority. Thus he is saying, “I am Peter, appointed by Jesus Christ to deliver his message of the gospel to you.”
Now, how does he address the believers? This again is important. Recipients have been addressed as saints, the faithful, and those loved of God. Peter’s first term is “the elect.” “God” does not actually precede the word, though it is understood this is what is meant. Peter wants his people to hear this word first. He wants to remind them that however else they may be regarded, they are to remember that they are the chosen of God. The emphasis is not on what they are suppose to be or how they are suppose to be living; it is not on what they have done, but rather on what God has already done for them. He has made them his chosen people.
Peter does not pull this term out of a vacuum. He is not trying to be original or creative, but rather is pointing to the redemptive promises of God. This is a title for Israel as the covenant people of God. It is used in Isaiah to describe the redeemed people of God.
For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name…45:4
I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them… 65:9
For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. 65:22
In all of the instances “chosen/elect” is used to describe God’s people in the state of redemption. They are redeemed; they are delivered because they are the elect people, those chosen by God. Peter is saying, “You are those people of whom it was prophesied. You are the chosen of God who have received his redemption. I, as the messenger of the Messiah who brings redemption am given the mission of declaring this good news to you.”
But there is a further description of the people to whom Peter is writing. Elect of God, they are yet “strangers in the world” who are “scattered throughout” the northern territory of Asia Minor, what we know as modern Turkey. Literally he refers to them as “aliens or sojourners of the diaspora or the scattering.” The diaspora was the term for the Jews who were scattered about in different lands outside of Palestine. The term is used in John 7:35 where the Jews, listening to Jesus saying he would go someplace where he could not be found, speculated that he would go to other Jews of “the diaspora” of the Greeks, i.e., scattered throughout the Roman empire.