Opening Prayer: Gracious Lord, guard our hearts and minds with your peace by your Holy Spirit that we might walk in your mercy all the days of our life. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Today we begin working through 1 Peter. Consider this series as a “you are here” map, specifically concerned with reviewing what it means to be the church, our mission in the world, and your role here.
Sent to Gather
Peter identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” He is one of the twelve “sent out” to gather the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10:6). This is Simon Peter, and he addresses the “pilgrims of the diaspora” which is Peter’s way of calling believing Jews and Gentiles the new Israel of God. More literally, they are “elect strangers of the diaspora” (1:1, cf. Js. 1:1). “Diaspora” literally means “scattering of seed.” In the Septuagint, the word is used to describe what will become of Israel if they break covenant (Dt. 28:25), but God also promises to gather Israel back up after they are scattered (Dt. 30:4, cf. Neh. 1:9). Remember also the theme of promised “seed” from Adam and Abraham and Israel. Those who went into exile and then return are called the “holy seed” (Is. 6:13, cf. Zech 10:9).
The label of “elect” originally applied to the old Israel over against the gentiles; they were a holy people, a chosen nation, a special treasure to God (Dt. 4:37, 7:6, 14:2, cf. Is. 45:4, 66:22). Furthermore, the terms “sanctification” and “sprinkling of the blood” are covenantal terms. Israel was the holy nation of God, and this was sealed by the literal sprinkling of blood on them (Ex. 24:8). This covenant ceremony is probably explicitly in view by Peter and explains why he says that their sanctification by the Spirit is “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood” (1:2). First, Israel was brought out of Egypt by the Spirit, then they made covenant at Sinai and got sprinkled with blood. These Christians scattered through Asia Minor are the new Israel. They are scattered strangers and simultaneously, the elect, holy, and the covenant people of God. Notice that Peter returns to these themes of election and exile at the end of his letter (5:13). Notice too that this identity is bound up with the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Grace and Peace
The actual greeting from Peter is a blessing, a benediction. As apparently became common in the early church, a form of the common Greek greeting was joined with the common Hebrew greeting: “grace and peace” [“chairein” and “shalom”]. Peter’s variation on Paul’s greeting (“grace to you and peace from God our Father…”) may simply be a different style (e.g. 2 Pet. 1:2, Jud. 1:2), but it is also striking that the same expression is used in letters in Daniel from Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:37) and Darius (6:25) in Babylon. This suggests something of an imperial greeting to the new kingdom of God, the scattered colonies growing throughout the world.
Conclusions & Applications
Peter writes as an ambassador of the King of the world to pilgrims in a foreign land. The Christian Church is the seed scattered throughout the world, but this time under the covenant blessing of the Lord (Mt. 28:18-19, Acts 1:8). This scattered seed will die and rise again, producing fruit out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. The Church family is the headquarters of the kingdom. Here is where grace and peace is multiplied for the world until it fills the world.
Are you living like colonists? Are you taking the patterns, the speech, the communion, the mercy that you find here and pushing into the corners of your lives?
Do you have the hope and faith of a kingdom that is growing and cannot be stopped? Do you have this hope and faith when the kids are out of sorts? When your wife is late coming home?
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we thank you for your grace and peace to us. We thank you that you have established your kingdom in this world through your church, and that you have scattered us throughout the world that we might be planted in the nations in order to bear much fruit for your glory and honor. Grant that we might always remember this, and joyfully partake in it. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray singing…