1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance.
This past weekend we launched into a new sermon series from the first letter of St. Peter. The letter is not addressed to a particular church but to a group of churches. It is a letter written for churches that are alienated from the surrounding society and for Christians who are being victimized for their faith.
These are Gentiles and pagans who have recently converted to Christianity and suddenly find themselves completely at odds with the culture they were raised in. They are strangers in a strange land, all the more strange because it used to be home! Many have been exiled from their family, their friends, their work and even their government. But just as when God’s people were exiled in Babylon, they have been exiled for a purpose.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon
They are the exiles God has sent into exile.
Their exile is a part of their calling and their election.
They were not rescued from exile; they were rescued into exile.
Election and exile go together.
The reason Peter says you can endure exile is because of who you are.
In the subject line of this letter Peter puts the entire message the gospel. We see the whole Trinity at work here. We are chosen by the Father, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and sprinkled with the blood of the Son.
Peter uses this word “foreknowledge” which can be confusing. Many people assume Peter is referring to the individuals God has selected for salvation, inferring that there are plenty of other individuals he has chosen not to save.
However, “the foreknowledge of God the Father” focuses on the very beginning of God’s mission. Christ himself was “foreknown before the creation of the world” (1:20). What God foreknew was that Jesus would come and bring salvation.
Peter isn’t saying God chose us INDIVIDUALLY according to his foreknowledge. Rather that God “foreknew” the plan of salvation centered in Jesus Christ - a plan that included the gracious invitation to all who believe.
But when we accept this invitation we are called out of this world, at least partially. We remain committed to the common good of the world around us, but our vision, our values, our hope are all transferred into another realm. We become foreigners and exiles.
Peter addresses his readers as foreigners and exiles, not because they have emigrated to a new land but because they now have a dual citizenship. They are inhabitants of this world and at the same time citizens of God’s new world which has already come into being through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is God’s purpose: to set people aside so that they can be signposts to this new reality. Through the sacrificial death of God’s Son, the indwelling of God’s Spirit, God the Father has set us apart to be representatives of this new world. The way we live now reflects God’s desire for all human beings.
That is who we are as Christians.
This is what we are to be as a Church.
The church is a portrait of the love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and a picture of God’s dream for all human beings. We are called to help people see God’s new creation with their own eyes.