Peter, the Author
This book is an epistle, a letter. It begins with the name of the author: Peter, further identified as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Peter, the leader of the Twelve, has been considered the author of the epistle. The fact that he says in 5:1 that he was “a witness of the suffering of Christ” lends credence to this position. The early church fathers accepted Peter as the author. The picture above is of a painting by Rembrandt. He came along much later than Peter so it is just his imagination of what Peter looked like.
He identified himself that way so that people would know exactly who the letter came from. He also identified himself that way so that people would know that he spoke with authority.
Recent critics claim that the Greek of the epistle is too refined for a Galilean fisherman. Although he was a fisherman, he was a fisherman with his own business. He may well have known Greek. However, Peter had not been a fisherman for several decades at this point. The book was likely written around 62 A.D. He had had almost three decades to learn and polish his Greek as he left Jerusalem and ministered in different places. There are probably many things you do better now than you did 30 years ago, including speak and write.
Peter, who was once brash and often foolish, has matured in Christ, taught by the Holy Spirit. He is fulfilling Jesus’ command to him to “feed my sheep”. (John 21:15-17) He has become the rock, Peter, and is no longer just Simon, his birth name. He has been changed from impulsive fisherman, to evangelist, leader, and apostle. He was sent by Jesus, and this letter is not just his thoughts, but the word of God.
The recipients of the epistles were believers in Asia (northern Turkey), many of which were evangelized by Paul. They were in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
Peter gives a interesting description of the people. First, he calls them “elect exiles of the dispersion”. There is an allusion to the Old Testament here. When the Jews were conquered by Babylon, they were taken into exile, removed from their land and taken to another land and dispersed.
But, Peter was not writing to Jews in Babylon, but to Christians in Northern Turkey. So, he does not mean they are in exile in the sense of being removed from the country they were born in. But all believers are exiles in the sense that their true home is with Christ, first in heaven, then ultimately in the New Earth. (The NIV wording is “strangers in the world” captures the concept of this not being our home, but does not point out the Old Testament allusion.) Their home is not this fallen world of sin. Since it is not, they will suffer in this life, this exile, as Israel suffered in exile in Babylon. Suffering is an important theme in the epistle.
An American country singer sang a song called “This World Is Not My Home”, one stanza of which said:
This world is not my home
I'm just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.
The song was written by guy named J. B. Baxter. He was saying earth is not my home, heaven is. The complete picture would have included the New Earth, but he may not have known that.
The purpose of the letter is to encourage believers to stand firm in suffering. The could stand firm because of the future glory awaiting them.
The recipients of the letter were also likely Gentile believers. Peter exhorted them not to be conformed to the passions of their former ignorance. (1:14) Since Jews would have known the law, the would not have been in ignorance.
But the Gentiles did not have the law, worshipped idols, and found many sexually immoral practices acceptable in their cultures. Also, Peter later says they were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers. (1:18) Again, he would not likely say that to Jews. And if it were to Jews, he would have said “our forefathers”. Finally, Peter wrote they had spent enough time doing what pagans choose to do, and listed several sins, including idolatry. Peter would not write that to Jews.
These believers are not just exiles, but “elect” exiles. “Elect” means chosen. Here it specifically means “chosen by God”. Israel was often referred to as God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. For example, Moses wrote “because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them…” (Deuteronomy 4:37) He also wrote “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Since ethnic Israel was the chosen people of God in Old Testament times, and Peter was applying this same language to the church we see that Peter was saying that the church is the Israel of God. It is his chosen people. Peter reiterates this in 2:9, calling the church a chosen race, a holy nation, and a people for his own possession, the very language God used for Israel in the Old Testament.
Peter said they were the elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God. (2) (The NIV says “who have been chosen”, but those words are interpretive; they are not in the Greek text). “Foreknowledge” means more than knowledge of someone, it means to be the recipient of his favor and love, his choosing. For example, in Romans 8:28, Paul refers to “those whom he foreknew”.
There are some who say that it only means that God foresaw who would be his elect or chosen. The early church father, Origen, held to this view. A number of Baptists hold to this view as well. This view does not, however, take into account the covenantal aspect of the word “know”. In the Old Testament, if often refers to God’s covenantal love bestowed upon his people.
So, when Peter said believers were foreknown by God, he was emphasizing God’s sovereignty in salvation. Believers are foreknown and elect because God set his covenantal love upon them. “According to” is used to mean “cause.
For example, when God commissioned Jeremiah to be his prophet, he said “before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. (Jeremiah 1:5) God’s plan, or will, was to set Jeremiah apart from the rest of Israel for the purpose of delivering God’s word to Israel. In Amos 3:2, God said “you only have I known of all the families of the earth”. God knew about every family on earth. He knows everything. But only Israel was chosen by God and God set his affection only on Israel.
Next, Paul describes these believers as being “in the sanctification of the Spirit”. (2) They have been set apart, sanctified, by the Holy Spirit. These believers were taken out of a pagan, immoral people world, and placed in the people of God, who are to live holy lives. Believers are to be conformed to the image of Christ. Paul said those whom God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. There are many different analogies to this used in the New Testament, but the idea is always that believers leave the world of sin for the world of holiness when they are converted.
Therefore, believers set apart for obedience to Christ. We commit to obey Christ when we convert (when we are saved). Repentance means we turn away from our life of sin and turn to Christ. Jesus, in fact, said “if you love me, keep my commandments”. (John 14:15) Jesus also said Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
The recipients of the letter are also “for sprinkling with his (Christ’s) blood. (2) These believers have been cleansed of their sins by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 1:7 says “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through is blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (sins)….
Why did Peter use the term “sprinkling with his blood”? It again is a covenantal reference. The people of Israel pledged to obey the covenant. Then Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of the sacrifice, saying “this is the blood of the covenant the the LORD has made with you”. (Exodus 24:8) The blood signified the cleansing of sin needed to stand in right relationship with God.
Similarly, we enter into the New Covenant by an obedient response to the gospel and cleansing from sin through the blood of Christ.
“Sprinkling” is a metaphor for this cleansing. We are not literally sprinkled with blood, but are cleansed of sin because Jesus shed his blood (died) for us.
So, the conclusion is that the foreknowing work of the Father and the sanctifying action of the Spirit result in human obedience and to Christ’s work of cleansing from sin (sprinkling of the blood).
Conversion, then, or getting saved, is not just a get out of hell free card. It is a commitment to follow Jesus in obedience.
The Trinity is in sight here. The Father foreknows, the Spirit sanctifies, and the Son cleanses.
All of the things Peter says about these Asian believers applies to you as well.