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.