I Peter 1:1–12 By His Great Mercy We Have Been Born Anew.
Key Notes: Five key words including grace. Three unknowns. Our part and His.
It is about 62AD, 30 years since the death of Christ. The persecution under Nero is soon to begin. Peter, who led the Church in its early days (Acts.1–12) and introduced the first Gentile family to Christ (Acts 10) has been replaced as the Church's principal leader by Paul. Peter is believed now to be in Rome (code name "Babylon" IPet.5:13) with his wife. He wrote this letter to Christians, Jews and Gentiles in the upper part of Asia Minor, now Turkey. It is a general letter, meant to be widely read. Peter had grown a great deal since he first met Christ. His Greek is also superior, unexpected for a fisherman. (Acts 4:13). He probably had a secretary (Silvanus, 5:12) working with him, polishing the prose.
Words and meanings.
1:1 "Exiles". The Greek word translated is "next to the people of the city". It implies detachment, living in a ghetto, but not in alienation from the city.
1:1 "Dispersion". The word is diaspora in Greek. The root means to scatter seed. This began with the scattering of the Christians due to persecution in Acts 8:1,4 after Stephen was stoned. The Christians preached the Word (scattered seed) wherever they went.
There were two other diaspora. The first was the dispersion and resettlement of Judah in Babylon after 586BC. The Second Diaspora occurred after the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70AD. This sent Jews all over the world, as Moses had prophesied 1400BC. Deut.28:64
1:2 "Chosen". The Greek word is the source of English "eclectic": selected from a variety of options. God has selected believers from all ages, ethnic groups and walks of life. It is not a matter of luck or even of family tradition.
1:2 "Destined". The Greek word is the source of English "prognosis", knowing in advance. There are some who believe that God scans the future like a video tape and picks the best people who will come along through history. Acts 2:23 adds the word "plan" to foreknowledge making it clear that God's predestination is not simply based on His foreknowledge but is part of His plan.
1:2 Chosen and destined by God the Father,
Sanctified (set apart) by the Spirit,
for obedience to Jesus Christ, sprinkled by His blood.
The Trinity is involved in our salvation.
1:2 "Grace"(Gr, charis) is a beautiful word, meaning beauty, charm, grace, or favor. It is part of a collection of related Greek words:
chairo: I rejoice
charis: beauty, grace, charm, favor
charizomai: I bestow kindness, forgiveness
charisma: a gift, especially a spiritual gift
eucharistia: thanks, as in the Lord's Supper
charitoo: I bless
Putting them all together, God's grace gives us joy, causing us to rejoice because He bestows favor and forgiveness, including the gift of Christ's offering for us so that we offer thanks and bless His Name.
Joy is not trivial or even natural. Russian Bible students said they did not understand joy, only suffering. Christmas carols are not part of their culture.
1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of the Lord, our Jesus Christ--this is the way the Greek reads. "Our" tilts the expression toward the personal affection we have for Jesus.
1:3 "Born again". The word is literal (Gr. ana-gennao) and different than Jesus' word for "born again" in Jn.3:5,7 (Gr. anothen), which means born from above, born from a higher place.
1:5 "Kept by God's power" is really guarded by God's power.
1:6,7 Trials are temptations to sin; testing is assaying of our faith, as gold or silver is assayed.
The core of Peter's first message is descriptive but with a hidden exhortation. There is no instruction until 1:13. He starts with a blessing to God for our rebirth to a living hope by the Resurrection. The Resurrection is our assurance that there is life after the grave. Our inheritance in Heaven is indestructible (imperishable, undefiled, unfading) because God's power guards it.
However, there is now real stress, although temporary, which will test the metal of faith. The hidden exhortation is to endure the testing of the metal of faith.
Peter speaks of three unknowns:
We love Jesus, believe in Him and rejoice in Him with exalted joy, but we have never seen Him. In the physical sense He is unknown. No picture of Him survives. Peter knew Jesus as well as anyone, but as Jesus said: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed." (Jn.20:29)
Napoleon said "An extraordinary power of influencing and commanding men has been given to Alexander, Charlemagne and myself. But with us the presence has been necessary, the eye, the voice, the hand, whereas Jesus Christ has influenced and commanded His subjects without His visible bodily Presence for eighteen hundred years."
( Commentary on I,II Peter. G.H. Cramer, MBI,’67, p.25)
The second unknown is the prophetic enigma: who was the Holy Spirit talking about when the prophets were writing about the sufferings and glorification of Christ? They did know that they were not dealing with a contemporary of theirs but someone in the future, hundreds of years later. They asked when Messiah would come, and the answer was mostly indefinite--“later”.
The third unknown is that the angels stoop to look into the Gospel preached through the Holy Spirit but they do not understand it. It is that strange. Those who do not know sin cannot understand salvation [and most of those who know sin do not understand it either].
The bottom line of this passage concerns our faith:
Our hope, our inheritance is guarded by God's power through our faith.
The genuineness of our faith is tested by fiery trials
The outcome of our faith is the salvation of our souls.
That is our part in our salvation.
God's part is choosing and predestining us; the Holy Spirit's is sanctifying; Jesus' part is the atoning sacrifice.
God is guarding our inheritance; the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and oversees the preaching of the Gospel.
Which is more important: our part or His? Or better, which is first?