Peter is writing this letter to “aliens,” those who are temporary residents in a foreign place. Not only are they aliens socially and politically, but far more so, spiritually. Their citizenship in heaven has made them sojourners on earth (c.f. Hebrews 11:13). These believers are scattered throughout a drastically varying conglomeration of territories with inhabitants diverse in language, customs, religions, politics, ethnic roots, etc. With all these differences, however, one primary thing is pointed out—their unity in Christ, under the gospel!
Though the recipients of the letter are scattered for now, they are selected for eternity—chosen by God! Many of those reading Peter’s words were Gentiles. As the objects of God’s saving love, the Gentiles are not a divine afterthought and they are not second-class citizens. Rather, they are God’s purpose from the beginning. God’s foreknowledge refers to His personal, fatherly knowledge of individuals, and to His love and care for those individuals, before the world was made. Salvation begins in the sovereign will of God as He determines to bestow salvation to His own. This mystery of God’s own choosing offends those who stand in pride before Him, as they forget their own guilt and rebellion towards Him while accusing Him of favoritism. On the other hand, those who have been drawn to Christ by God’s love stand in wonder at His amazing grace. Even in this hostile environment on earth (i.e. “scattered”), we are privileged as God’s chosen people (i.e. “selected”).
Next, we are chosen “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the only source for our salvation. The context here makes clear that Peter is speaking of the initial point of sanctification, when we are once and for all separated from the world, saved by grace, and adopted in God’s family (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:2). Sanctification is the result of the Word of God and the Spirit of God working in our life (John 17:17).
We are chosen “to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.” The blood with which we are sprinkled is the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). The blood is not effective until, and unless, it is applied. The reality of Christ’s cleansing blood is seen in the imagery of the covenant inauguration with Moses (Exodus 24:8). The blood signifies the forgiveness and cleansing that is necessary for right standing with God. The obedience here is the initial obedience to the demands of the gospel. Obedience marks the life of the Christian—an obedience with failings that are cleansed by and forgiven through His blood.
Peter finishes these introductory verses with an expressed desire that God’s grace (i.e., favor, blessing, love) be dispensed and that peace (i.e., good, welfare, prosperity) be bestowed on their lives. His desire that this be given “in the fullest measure” refers to a multiplied abundance.
- In this letter, the Lord has given us a “Traveler’s Guide for Christian Pilgrims.” While we wander as aliens in a world of rebels against God, our hope is anchored in the homeland of heaven. Our call is not to flee the world or to isolate within the world; our call is to live in the world, among the worldly, in a distinct fashion as ambassadors of Christ. In what ways does the knowledge that in Christ you have been selected, sanctified, and sprinkled affect the way you view your earthly pilgrimage? Are you finding your identity in those truths, or are you finding your identity in your relationship to the things of this world?