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1 Peter 1:1–2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to those chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
SALUTATION 1 PETER 1:1–2
First Peter begins in the usual style for a first-century letter. The first element is the salutation, which serves three purposes.
First, it identifies the relationship between the writer and the audience. Peter accomplishes this by identifying himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ (1:1).
Second, it introduces the major themes of the letter. Peter does this by identifying the audience by three images: God’s elect, strangers, and scattered (1:1). Some writers have suggested that these three terms provide the structure for the entire letter. “The interrelationship of the three words describing the readers reveals the author’s underlying conviction about the nature of the Christian community and its relationship to its surrounding world.”
Third, the salutation conveys a greeting. A writer might express a desire for the good health of the recipient. New Testament writers infused their letters with Christian content, so the words grace and peace be yours in abundance (1:2) are more than a wish that all is well.
The text begins with the identification of the author, Peter (1:1). This is the same individual who was called Simon and was introduced to Jesus by Andrew (John 1:42). Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas, which is translated Peter and means rock or stone. Peter became one of the original twelve disciples (Mark 1:17) and soon joined John and James as one of Jesus’ three closest associates (Luke 9:28). Although Peter denied Jesus on the night of His arrest (Luke 22:61), Jesus reinstated him. Peter rose as a leader among the believers (Acts 1:15), and on the Day of Pentecost, he became the spokesman for the infant Church (Acts 2:14).
Peter is identified as an apostle of Jesus Christ (1:1). The word apostle occurs in the New Testament seventy-nine times, including one reference each in Matthew, Mark, and John. There are six occurrences in Luke and twenty-eight in Acts. Paul used this word twenty-nine times. The word denotes a person who is sent with full authority; in the New Testament, the person is sent with Christ’s authority. The phrase apostle of Jesus Christ indicates “the unique relationship in which it stood to the historic Christ.”
Peter received his apostleship when “He [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness …” (Matt. 10:2). Matthew, Mark, and Luke make a distinction between a disciple—a follower of Jesus—and an apostle—one sent forth with full authority (Matt. 10:1–4; Mark 3:13–19; Luke 6:12–16). All three Gospel writers name Peter first.
Peter’s authority was enhanced by his having seen the resurrected Christ. John Elliott writes in reference to 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 that “Peter was the first such privileged witness of Christ’s resurrection (see also Luke 24:34), and it was this privilege that established his priority and leading role among the first followers of Jesus.” By the time of writing 1 Peter, the sense of being an apostle had grown in Peter’s consciousness to the point that it became a driving force. This is what motivated Peter, and this is how the epistle’s audience identified him.
Peter has written to God’s people. They are known as the elect and thus have a significant relationship with God. They have a unique relationship with the world also. Though they inhabit a particular region of the earth, they are citizens of heaven. This will create tension for them as they live out their faith among unbelievers.
A Relational Description. God’s people are first all God’s elect (1:1). The word elect is derived from a verb meaning to pick out or select. This term is applied to individuals who have responded in faith to the gospel offer. Those who believe become known as the elect. This term thus identifies individuals who have a special relationship with God.
A Temporal Description. The recipients are also identified as strangers in the world (1:1). Strangers indicate a relationship with the world. The word identifies one who lives alongside others, a sojourner. Is strangers used literally or figuratively? If it is applied literally, the audience is composed of individuals who have been dispersed from their homeland. If the term is a figure of speech, then it may describe the people of God as they live here on earth. This figurative sense of the term strangers better fits the role of the expanding Church in an unbelieving world. They are strangers in society yet chosen by God.
The third description of the recipients of this letter is found in the phrase scattered throughout (1:1). The Greek word here translated means dispersed or scattered and is the root of the term diaspora. First Peter is often called a dispersion letter because it is written to those who have been dispersed abroad. If the audience for this letter is a mixture of both Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity, then scattered throughout may refer to Christian people inhabiting a wide territory rather than to a displaced people. This term, when used of Christians, “describes the fact that because of their unwillingness to adopt the mores of their surrounding society, they can expect the disdainful treatment often accorded exiles.” Again, the figurative sense of scattered makes proper sense. Peter wrote to Christians living in a secular, pagan society.
This epistle was sent to believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1:1). This area encompasses a wide circle of churches on the frontier of the Roman Empire in five provinces of Asia Minor. It is possible that the order in which Peter named the provinces indicated the route of the messenger who would deliver the letter.
A Theological Description. Having described his readers in terms of their relation to God and location in the world, Peter describes them in theological terms. Though they may be suffering, there are some positive things to say about these Christians. To do this, Peter invokes a Trinitarian formula, touching on the work of God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ.
Peter’s readers have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1:2). The word foreknowledge is a compound word meaning to know beforehand. One of the attributes of God is His omniscience, His complete knowledge of the world and time. Those who believe in God are known as the elect and are said to be chosen by God. It is God’s purpose to have for himself a particular people. This does not imply, however, the choice of particular individuals. Because God is omniscient, He does know who will ultimately be saved. Yet it is His desire that all people might be included in that number (2 Pet. 3:9).
EPHESIANS 1:4: How is it that Adam and Eve were blamed for their actions before the foundation of the world?
Human freedom complicates the matter. God is a gracious and will never coerce one to become a believer. God knows all things because He is God. Yet His divine foreknowledge does not impede one’s free will. Peter is written to those who had accepted God’s gracious work on their behalf. By doing so, they became part of the elect. God knew they would make this choice.
EPHESIANS 1:4: Are some chosen (predestined) to eternal salvation, and others to eternal condemnation?
The second theological expression Peter uses to describe his audience is through the sanctifying work of the Spirit (1:2). The word sanctifying has a rich Old Testament background. There, the word indicates separation for a specific task. The tribe of Levi was sanctified in that it was separated for specific work in connection with the tabernacle. Priests were sanctified in that they were separated for the work of offering sacrifices. Certain holy things were separated for use in worship. In the New Testament, the notion of being made holy by separation is continued with an emphasis on moral purity. The preposition through indicates that this is accomplished by the Holy Sprit. It is the Holy Spirit who sets us apart and purifies us.
The third part of the Trinitarian formula Peter uses to describe his audience is found in the words for obedience to Jesus Christ, which is connected with sprinkling by His blood (1:2). It is interesting that Peter refers to the practice of sprinkling with blood (see Heb. 9:11–14). The Old Testament refers to sprinkling blood: “In only three cases was blood ceremonially sprinkled on the people themselves: in the covenant initiation ceremony at Mt. Sinai (Exod. 24:8); in the ceremony of ordination for Aaron and his sons as priests (Exod. 29:20); and in the purification ceremony for a leper who had been healed from leprosy (Lev. 14).”
a plan for all ages
The Origin of the Plan:
“Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God.”
Instrument of the Plan:
“Through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.”
The Purpose of the Plan:
“For obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.”
A clue to the way the three theological references are connected is found in the prepositions associated with them. The plan of salvation was formed according to the God’s foreknowledge. This plan was affected through the sanctifying actions of the Holy Spirit. The preposition for in the third part of the Trinitarian formula can be interpreted to mean because of the obedience of Christ and His blood sprinkled. That rendering of the clause would mean that it identifies the result—not the purpose—of Christ’s work. “The end result is they will be the people of a new covenant characterized by obedience and sacrifice.”
The salutation concludes with a greeting: grace and peace (1:2). Similar greetings were common in first-century letters, but this one has more significance than a casual wish for the reader’s well being. This greeting combines grace, the usual Christian welcome, with peace, the typical Hebrew greeting. This reflects the priestly blessing of Num. 6:25–26, “The Lord … be gracious to you … and give you peace.” It sounds almost frightening to express the wish that these two blessings might be yours in abundance (1:2). Peter prays for the multiplication of grace and peace as if he knows that his readers will have great need of them. Even in the salutation of this letter, we get the feeling that its recipients may be facing trying circumstances. It will come as no surprise that the body of the letter addresses suffering and the trials through which the Asiatic Christians were about to pass.
By David A. Case and David W. Holdren
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BIBLE TRANSLATION AND TEXTUAL CRITICISM
BIBLICAL STUDIES / INTERPRETATION
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM
CHURCH HEALTH, GROWTH, AND HISTORY
 David A. Case and David W. Holdren, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude: A Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2006), 31–36.