Summary: The greeting contained in I Peter 1:1-2 gives us a wonderful description of who we are and how we ought to live in Christ.
I Peter 1:1-2 “Who Are We?”
Intro—Today I’d like to begin a series in the book of I Peter...I Peter is an often overlooked book in the New Testament, and I think one reason for that may be that there is a belief among Christians that Peter, in some ways, is less of an apostle than Paul...I think pastors and teachers are at least partially responsible for this, because I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a message or a lesson on the Apostle Peter in which the pastor makes Peter out to be a bit of a buffoon—oh, look at Peter trying to walk on the water, oh look, there’s Peter wanting to build tents on the mount of the transfiguration—as though Peter were the comic relief for the group of apostles, rather than one of the three closest to Jesus.
But I think the Bible teaches us that, more than any other Apostle, Peter, the one who denied his Lord, understood the need of man for forgiveness, and the grace that supplied it. He was transformed from a denier of Jesus Christ into a preacher who, at Pentecost, saw thousands respond to his message...this fisherman became one of the early leaders of a group that turned the world upside down with its teachings...
So I think it is well worth our while to consider carefully what Peter, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote for the church in his letters, and to be careful as well not to overlook Peter’s letters simply because they’re less familiar to us than Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians…
So with that in mind, when we look at any letter in the New Testament (and I Peter, as we see in verse 1, is a letter) it’s important to determine the author and the recipients of the letter—The author, obviously, is Peter...he identifies himself simply in verse 1 as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” By doing so, he establishes not only his identity, but his authority to speak, to teach and to command the Christian readers of the letter in faith and practice.
More difficult to determine is who is this letter written to? Verse 1 tells us it is written to “pilgrims of the dispersion,” and then lists several provinces in Asia Minor where the letter was to be distributed...so our natural thought might be that Peter is writing to Jews converted to Christianity, just as in James, James writes to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad.” But actually, a careful reading of I Peter shows us that Peter is not writing to Jews at all...he’s writing to Gentile Christians, but writing to them as though they were Jews...at several points it’s clear that Peter is not writing to Jews...in 1:14, he tells the readers not to follow the former lusts they had when they were ignorant...in 1:18, he says the readers received “aimless conduct” or “vain conversation” as a tradition from their fathers...in 2:10, he says the readers were once not a people, but now are the people of God...in 4:3 he flatly states that at one time the readers followed all the Gentile practices of lewdness and lusts, drunkenness and revelry and idolatry...no, he’s clearly not writing to Jews here, but to Gentiles saved by grace. Why does he write to them as though they were Jews then? I believe he writes to them as though they were Jews so that they might see that he, an apostle, accepted them in the same way he would have had they been Jews, and saw no difference in the Jewish and the Greek or Gentile Christian...as Paul said in Galatians 3:28—“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Then, in verse 2, Peter tells his Gentile readers what it means to have become a Christian...who are these Christians?
I. First, they are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God…” This election means that they have been specially chosen by God, before the foundation of the world, to become His children…no one, no Christian anywhere, has anything to brag about in the realm of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” In other words, we do nothing to merit His favor...he chooses us in spite of ourselves.
Now some say, “well why one person and not another?” and often become upset with God if God chooses not to save everyone. The problem with that approach is that it assumes an obligation on God’s part where none exists...God is not OBLIGATED to save anyone, apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ...in fact, to be really accurate, you would have to say that, in order to be true to His own nature, God IS OBLIGATED to condemn everyone apart from Christ’s work. But in His mercy, He has chosen some to be saved through Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on a cross...the doctrine of election should not be understood as a doctrine of the punishment of those who are not saved, but rather as a doctrine of mercy to those that are elect.