1 Peter 1.1-2
I was standing on my drive last week when a delivery driver appeared from behind the front hedge with the words, ‘Are you Andrea Williams?’ Now I am six foot, over weight, balding, with a beard and male. ‘Yep’ I replied. He seemed a little unsure so he pressed me for more detail. ‘Are you number three?’ Now as far as I know my mother only had two children and I was the second, but I assured him I was number three any way, just to get the whole thing over with. ‘This is for you then’, he said and thrust a small parcel in my hand. I’ve been had like this before and given post that wasn’t for me and ended up walking the local streets trying to find the real recipient, so I checked which delivery firm he worked for. He threw back over his shoulder the name of the highest valued company in the world (other possibly more ethical internet providers are available) as he rapidly disappeared from sight. Mildly amusing as that interchange was it succeeded in establishing who the post had come from and if it had arrived at the intended recipient, which broadly is what the opening sentences of 1 Peter does as well.
Peter wrote this letter close to the end of his life, around A.D. 62-64, he was probably in Rome. He was one of the most well known of the apostles with a special commission from Jesus to, ‘Feed my Sheep.’ John 21.17 This commission, Jesus made clear, was to be a response arising from Peter’s love for Jesus. Peter had a particular role in reaching out to the Jewish community while Paul had a special commission to establish churches amongst the Gentiles (non-Jewish). However, it is a mistake to think that that these roles were exclusive, Peter was the first to have revealed to him that the same baptism of the Holy Spirit was for Gentiles as it was for Jewish converts and Paul always started his outreach in a new town by going to the synagogue and preaching to the Jews.
Peter starts his letter by stating he is Peter, a sent one or messenger, from Jesus Christ. In fact, no one knew Jesus better than Peter. He went through every grueling moment of Jesus ministry, death and resurrection by the side of Jesus. He knew Jesus’ love and rebukes. He saw Jesus in all his miraculous glory, he saw his tortured body. He witnessed Jesus’ healing touch and then healed people himself in Jesus’ name. He welcomed Jesus into his home and saw him heal his mother in law. He walked with Jesus for three years over the whole landscape of Palestine. He saw Jesus disappear in the clouds following his resurrection promising to return. He ate fish with him, that Jesus had cooked, after Jesus’ crucifixion. He listened to every word of Jesus’ teaching. He had walked on water towards Jesus in the middle of a tempestuous storm and then lost faith so Jesus had to grasp him and save his life. He had been imprisoned for speaking about Jesus’ resurrection and then been miraculously released from shackles and prison. He had experienced the grace of God in a way that few could compare with. Peter was a man who learnt the hard way but there was nobody who had greater claim to say they were an apostle of Jesus Christ. So, receiving a letter from Peter for any church was a massively significant moment.
The letter was for circulation around the churches of Asia Minor or what is now Turkey. In his initial greeting to the elect exiles of the Dispersion the ‘elect’ are the chosen of God in the same way as Israel was the chosen people of God in the Old Testament. He is signifying that the church is now God’s people, called by God, to be his body living distinctively and bearing the good news of Jesus to the world. In the second sentence Peter introduces one of the key themes of his letter, the notion that God’s people are exiles. From now on their allegiances are to the kingdom of God and they are now strangers to the culture of the world that they have been called out of. Jesus consistently taught about the kingdom of God and then established it through his death and resurrection and on his ascension being enthroned as the King. The kingdom became the dispersed people who God had sanctified through the Holy Spirit. v2 Sanctification here is referring both to the initial conversion of the believer and also to the progressive changes the believer experiences as they learn to live more like Christ. This is the life of discipleship or as Peter describes it here, obedience to Jesus Christ. This new relationship with God is only possible because by faith the Christian has benefited from forgiveness from sin because of Jesus taking the consequences of the believer’s sin through his death. Peter describes this as being sprinkled with his blood.
In these ways Peter establishes at the beginning of his letter, who he is and who he is writing to. He then prays for their continued experience of God’s blessing in experiencing God’s mercy and peace. Peace here is not only a sense of inner peace, it is peace in terms of their relationship with God, not being estranged from him and in fact being positively in harmony with him. The opening of Peter’s letter also makes clear that the believer’s relationship is with the full Trinity, as he describes the foreknowledge of God the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit and obedience to Jesus Christ.
Have we made that first step of obedience to Jesus Christ and therefore joined the Kingdom of God?
Do we experience the continuing sanctification of the Spirit that enables us to become more like Jesus?
What a Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship