Chapter OneThe Elements
(1 Peter 1:1-2)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens,
scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and
Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God
the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus
Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be
yours in the fullest measure. (1:1-2)
Even though it is the starting point of redemptive history, it may
seem startling to begin an epistle with reference to the doctrine of election,
yet that is exactly what the apostle Peter does (cf. Eph. 1:1-5 and
Titus 1:1-2, where Paul begins the same way). And he does so unhesitatingly,
after the opening identifications, with the phrase who are chosen
(v. 1). He thus opens his letter by writing of one of the most controversial
and hated doctrines and doing so with no self-consciousness, no apology,
no effort to palliate, and no explanation of or deferral to opposing
arguments. He states this truth of sovereign election for what it is, a reality
recognized and believed among the apostles and in the church. Still,
today this unquestionably true doctrine is questioned by many and
despised by many others. Arthur W. Pink, the British-born Bible teacher
and prolific theological writer who died in 1952, wrote this about
people's views of God's sovereignty and, by implication, the subsidiary
doctrine of divine election:
We are well aware that what we have written is in open opposition to
much of the teaching that is current both in religious literature and in
the representative pulpits of the land. We freely grant that the postulate
of God's Sovereignty with all its corollaries is at direct variance with the
opinions and thoughts of the natural man, but the truth is, the natural
man is quite unable to think upon these matters: he is not competent
to form a proper estimate of God's character and ways, and it is
because of this that God has given us a revelation of His mind, and in
that revelation He plainly declares, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are
higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My
thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55: 8, 9). In view of this scripture, it is
only to be expected that much of the contents of the Bible conflicts with the sentiments of the carnal mind, which is enmity against God.
Our appeal then is not to the popular beliefs of the day, nor to the
creeds of the churches, but to the Law and Testimony of Jehovah. All
that we ask for is an impartial and attentive examination of what we
have written, and that, made prayerfully in the light of the Lamp of
Truth. (The Sovereignty of God, rev. ed. [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1961], 19; italics in original)
As Pink's still-relevant analysis reveals, it is imperative that Christians
fully understand and appreciate this most vital and crucial teaching.
Peter unfolds the theological and practical implications of divine
election under seven headings: the condition of election, the nature of
election, the source of election, the sphere of election, the effect of election,
the security of election, and the advantages of election.
The Condition of Election
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens,
scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and
Peter, the inspired author, identifies himself as an apostle ofJesus Christ. Other New Testament
verses also identify Peter as an apostle
and furthermore, by placing his name at the head of each list of Jesus'
apostles (Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), emphasize that he
was the leader of the Twelve.
Peter's intention in this first part of his salutation was not only to
identify his readers as to their heavenly origin, as the elect of God, but
also in relation to their condition as earthly residents. The apostle
describes his readers in their earthly condition as aliens. Parepidemois
(aliens) can denote those who are temporary residents, or who are foreigners
or refugees (cf. Gen. 23:4; Ex. 2:22; 22:21; Ps. 119:19; Acts 7:29;
Heb. 11:13). The apostle further identifies them as people who were scattered
throughout various locales. Scattered translates diaspora, from
which root another English term, dispersion, derives. Commentaries, theological
works, and works on Bible history often transliterate diaspora
and use it interchangeably with dispersion. In its other two New Testament
appearances, diaspora is a technical term referring to the dispersing
of the Jews throughout the world by the Assyrian and Babylonian
captivities. Both times the word has the definite article (John 7:35; James
1:1). However here Peter does not include the definite article; therefore it
is best to interpret the term as a non-technical reference to believers
widely distributed geographically.
Though God called Peter to be the apostle to the Jews (Gal. 2:7),
the absence of the definite article with diaspora argues that Peter was
not addressing Jews as such in his salutation. Another passage supports
that interpretation. In 2:11 he identifies his readers, not racially or nationally,
but spiritually: "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain
from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." Thus the apostle
addressed not only Jews who were dispersed from their native land, but
Gentile believers, both of whom spiritually were aliens in the world.
The church is composed of strangers and pilgrims scattered
throughout the earth, away from their true home in heaven (cf. Phil.
3:20; Heb. 11:13-16; 13:14). Specifically, he was addressing the church inPontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, all provinces in
Asia Minor (modern Turkey) at the time. Pontus was in the far north, and
Jewish pilgrims from there were in Jerusalem during the extraordinary
events of Pentecost (Acts 2:9). The province was also the home of Aquila
(Acts 18:2), the Jew who with his wife Priscilla became Christians in
Rome and subsequently ministered with Paul (Acts 18:18). Galatia was
in central Asia Minor and contained the towns of Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium
where Paul ministered several times (Acts 14:1-13; 16:1-5; 18:23).Cappadocia was located in the east portion of Asia Minor, north of Cilicia, and
is also mentioned in connection with the Acts 2:9 pilgrims. Asia
included most of western Asia Minor and contained such subdivisions
as Mysia, Lydia, Caria, and much of Phrygia. The province was the site of
extensive ministry by Paul on his third journey: "all who lived in Asia
heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10) and is
mentioned twelve other places in Acts. Bithynia was located in northwest
Asia Minor near the Bosphorus, the strait separating the European
and Asian sections of modern Turkey. This province is mentioned only
one other place in the New Testament, when the Holy Spirit, during Paul's
second missionary journey, forbade him from entering it (Acts 16:7).
As the geographical areas Peter mentioned in his salutation indicate,
this letter had a very wide circulation. No doubt, in each of those
areas, churches received and read the letter. For example, there were at
least seven churches in Asia Minor (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira,
Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea) that thirty years later received special
revelation from the risen Christ Himself (Rev. 1:11; chaps. 2-3). And
there were other notable places in Asia Minor, such as Colossae, that
Peter did not even mention. So he was writing to a large number of
believers scattered as spiritual aliens throughout a hostile, pagan region.
Peter addressed such a wide audience because the Roman persecution
of Christians had swept across the Empire. Believers in every
place were going to suffer (cf. Luke 21:12; Phil. 1:29; James 1:1-3). The
apostle wanted those believers to remember that, in the midst of potentially
great suffering and hardship, they were still the chosen of God, and
that as such they could face persecution in triumphant hope (cf. 4:13, 16,
19; Rom. 8:35-39; 2 Tim. 3:11; Heb. 10:34-36).
The Nature of Election
who are chosen (1:1b)
As spiritual aliens, the most important thing for Peter's readers
was not their relationship to earth but their relationship to heaven.
Describing Abraham's hope, the writer of Hebrews said, "He was looking
for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God"
(11:10; cf. vv. 13-16; John 14:1-3; Phil. 3:20).
Understanding that truth, Peter identifies his audience as thosewho are chosen (eklektos). The apostle reiterates this concept in 2:9,
"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for
God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him
who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Peter's Old
Testament allusions in that verse make it plain that he knew God had
sovereignly chosen Israel: "For you are a holy people to the Lord your
God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession
out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6;
cf. 14:2; Pss. 105:43; 135:4).
God's sovereign love also prompted His choice of the church.
The apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus, "We have obtained an inheritance,
having been predestined according to His purpose who works all
things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11). He told the Thessalonians, "But
we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved
by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation
through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" (2 Thess.
2:13; cf. John 15:16; Rom. 8:29-30; 1 Cor. 1:27; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:10; Col. 3:12; 1
Thess. 1:4; Titus 1:1).
Jesus also did not hesitate to unambiguously and unapologetically
teach the truth of election: "'No one can come to Me unless the
Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day'"
(John 6:44); "'I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen'"
(13:18; cf. Luke 10:20; 18:7; John 17:6, 9). The Lord assumed the truth of
divine election in His Olivet Discourse, making indirect reference to it
three times: "'Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have
been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short'"
(Matt. 24:22; see also vv. 24, 31; Mark 13:20).
God has chosen people out of all the world (Rev. 5:9; 7:9; cf. John
10:16; Acts 15:14) to belong to Him, and the church is that people (cf.
Rom. 8:29; Eph. 5:27). Throughout the New Testament this critical truth of
election is clearly presented (2:8-9; Matt. 24:22, 24, 31; Luke 18:7; Col.
3:12; Titus 1:1-2; James 2:5). The apostle John repeatedly quotes Jesus
saying that the Father gives whomever He chooses to the Son:
"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes
to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will
of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but
raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone
who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I
Myself will raise him up on the last day." Therefore the Jews were grumbling
about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out
of heaven." They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose
father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down
out of heaven'?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble
among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent
Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the
prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard
and learned from the Father, comes to Me. (John 6:37-45)
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the
world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept
Your word While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name
which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished
but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.
. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me
where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for
You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (17:6, 12,24)
The chosen are expressions of the Father's love for the Son. All
whom the Father gives, the Son receives; and the Son keeps them and
raises them to eternal life. In principle, Jesus revealed it to His disciples
in the Upper Room: "'You did not choose Me but I chose you, and
appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit
would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may
give to you'" (John 15:16). John 5:21 says, "For just as the Father raises the
dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He
wishes." Luke chronicled God's sovereign election of the church in Pisidian
Antioch during Paul's first missionary journey:
Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the
word of God be spoken to you [Jews] first; since you repudiate it and
judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the
Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed You as a
light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the
earth.'" When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying
the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal
life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through
the whole region. (Acts 13:46-49)
Paul wrote clearly the truth that election is completely the result
of God's sovereign purpose and grace: "who [the Lord] has saved us and
called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according
to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from
all eternity" (2 Tim. 1:9). The great apostle further defines this truth in
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to
those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed
to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn
among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also
called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom
He justified, He also glorified.