Today’s Scripture reading is 1 Peter 2, but I will take the liberty of introducing you to The First Epistle of Peter. Penned by Peter, who identified himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” the letter before us was not addressed to believers of a specific city, nor individuals (as with Paul’s epistles). Instead, Peter addressed his letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). To understand that statement, consider the historical setting of this epistle.
Peter was writing at a time the Roman Empire was near its peak. Reaching as far west as Britain, and south into the African continent to Egypt, Rome’s territories covered nearly two million square miles. The emperor of Peter’s day was the infamous Nero. By the time Peter penned his epistle, the dark clouds of persecution were already shadowing the world. Believers soon experienced the first wave of persecution, and tens of thousands were eventually martyred, among them the apostles Paul and Peter.
The Author – A Story of Amazing Grace (1:1a)
Peter the fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), along with his brother Andrew, had been a disciple of Jesus Christ, and an apostle. He was a natural leader, and with James and John, had been privileged to be numbered in Christ’s inner circle (Matthew 17:1-2; Mark 5:37, 9:2, 14:23). We remember him as the disciple who boasted he would never deny Christ (Matthew 26:29-35); yet, he denied Him three times the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:69-74). Humiliated, broken, and repentant; Peter was restored (Mark 16:7), and became a testimony of faith, courage, and faithfulness to the Lord.
The Recipients of the First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter 1:1b-2)
Who were “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). They were not “strangers” to Peter, but aliens, foreigners to this world (1:1). They were numbered among the tribes who believed Jesus was the Messiah, and were rejected by their families, driven from their homes by religious zealots, and left a people without home or country.
They were not only “strangers,” they were the saved “elect,” and chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1:2a). To be elect is a term of endearment. When a sinner becomes a part of God’s kingdom, he becomes part of His family, and is endeared to the Father. In His foresight, God the Father knows those sinners who come to Him by faith, and are sanctified by His Spirit. Their salvation is a covenant relationship, and they are sealed by the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1:2).
On a personal note: I believe the “elect” are chosen by God, according to His foreknowledge, and are the objects of His saving grace, through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for our sin [His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection]. Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words: “According as He hath chosen us in Him [i.e., for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame [above reproach]before him in love.”
Who are the chosen? Who are the elect? Who can be saved?
My answer is, “whosoever will.” The elect are “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord” (John 3:16; Romans 10:13). My heart rejoices to conclude our brief introduction to 1 Peter 1 with this eternal promise: “And [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
1 Peter 2 – Progressive Sanctification
A brief introduction of chapter 2 will suffice, but I invite you to consider a doctrine that is all but forgotten by the 21st century church: Progressive Sanctification.
In essence, “progressive sanctification” is the sanctifying work of God in the heart of a believer (John 17:17, Ephesians 5:25–27; Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonica 5:23; Hebrew 13:12). While it is the work of God, sanctification also requires spiritual discipline on the part of the believer. Paul described progressive sanctification as a “putting off” the sinful ways of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:22, 25-31), and “putting on”spiritual virtues and the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-24; Ephesians 4:23-24, 32).
Peter taught progressive sanctification in 1 Peter 2:1-2, when he exhorted believers: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (2:1-2).
Five Besetting Sins (2:1)
Understanding “laying aside” describes how one might remove and exchange a garment for another, Peter challenged believers to be “laying aside” five besetting sins that hinder spiritual growth. The first, “all malice,” a desire that embraces evil, and is acted out in a pattern of hurting and injuring others (2:1a). The second sin to be laid aside is “all guile” (2:1b), implying deception, or as some might say, “two-faced.” Peter exhorted believers to lay aside “hypocrisies” (2:1c), which implies hiding behind a mask (perhaps a mask of spiritual piety that conceals one’s true heart and motive. “Envies” (2:1d) is also identified as a hindrance to spiritual growth, and is a jealousy and longing for what others possess (money, friends, popularity). Finally, “all evil speakings” (2:1e) were to be set aside, knowing slander, gossip, and disparaging words have no place in the congregation.
Closing thoughts (2:1-2) – Having set aside sins that hinder spiritual growth (2:1), Peter urged believers to be as “newborn babes” and “desire the sincere milk of the word” (2:2). In the same way a healthy, growing newborn craves its mother’s milk, believers will earnestly desire the sincere, unadulterated, truths of God’s Word.
A sincere, spiritually growing believer will evidence the signs of progressive sanctification, and “desire the sincere milk of the Word.” (2:2)
How’s your spiritual appetite?
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