Introduction of Letter
Section I of 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
The introduction of the First Letter of Peter contains some important information. The first is the identification offered as to both the author and the intended recipients of the letter. Peter, considered a leader of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, is writing to five congregations in parts of what is modern day Turkey. This region is often referred to as “Asia Minor.”
The use of the term “aliens” (in the NASB) is translating the Greek “diaspora” (Strong, James, 1290). This term is often used in reference to the Jews of the Dispersion, Assyrian and Babylonian removal of Israelites from Israel and Judah. This initially suggests an intended Jewish audience, however, other areas in the letter also suggest this term is being used for Gentile believers to relate them to their Jewish brothers and sisters in a respectful and compassionate manner. There may be a connection with the Christians in these lands and those who were banished from Rome under the edict of Claudius (Suetonius, Life of Claudius, and Acts 18:1-2).
The next portion of this section demonstrates some of Peter’s theological understandings in the second verse. Key phrases such as “chosen,” and “foreknowledge of God the Father,” suggest a “pre-determinist” theology. That is, the belief that all are pre-determined or pre-destined to either follow Jesus or not. The counter to this view suggests that Peter is identifying these believers as ones who were chosen, not because they were pre-destined to be believers, but chosen because they chose to be believers. All things being fore-known by God is simply the nature of His existence. Thus, this portion is not attempting to assert that we have no choice in the matter. It is simply stating that by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, they are obeying Jesus Christ, and are sprinkled with his blood (likely in reference to Exodus 24:4-8, “The blood of the Covenant.” Which was sprinkled on the people).
If you read it, “To those…who are chosen (according to the foreknowledge of God), by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…” you can begin to understand the idea. Elsewhere in the text, Peter makes comments which clarify this point. We are justified through our Faith in God, something we must be willing to do. Once we have come to faith in God, the Holy Spirit then begins to work in us, that is, “sanctifying” us. This work of “sanctifying” is the act of setting us apart from the world and making us live righteously, not by our own works, but through the Spirit working in us.
Even though this first section contains only the introduction of the letter, there is much that is contained within it as we seek to study the Word and come to understand it. From a general believer’s standpoint, this does not seem like all too much of a “big deal.” However, theologically speaking, it is something that is important for all of us to understand. While we are all known according to the foreknowledge of God, and what we will or will not do is known by Him, this does not mean that we do not still have free will and choice. We continue to spread the Gospel, and were given the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) for a reason. While it may be difficult to understand the common phrases used during Biblical times, we must be careful to not develop theology based on a misunderstanding of phrases. Given the context of the letter, it is likely that the inclusion of God’s foreknowledge is intended to comfort the recipients in their suffering. It is to tell them, “God knows what you are going through, remember your salvation.”
Strong, James (2017). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Biblehub.org. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/greek/1290.htm July 31, 2017.