Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1Peter 1:1-2)
As with Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, Peter begins his first epistle with a Trinitarian summary of salvation. But it would be a mistake to view 1 Peter 1:1-2 as merely a condensation of Paul’s longer sentence in Ephesians 1:3-14. The two apostles approach the subject from different viewpoints. Paul is concerned with the vertical aspect of Trinitarian salvation: everything is for the praise of God’s glorious grace (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Peter takes the horizontal perspective: what does Trinitarian salvation mean for God’s people?
Salvation means that God’s people are sojourners and exiles (1:1, 17; 2:11) on this earth. God’s people are saved from the condemnation of sin. They are saved from judgment. They are heirs of eternal life. Yet their inheritance is in heaven (1:4), while they remain on earth. God’s people have been left in the world, though they no longer belong to it. So 1 Peter 1:1-2 describe how the grace of God works in the salvation of His people and their life as pilgrims.
The choosing foreknowledge of God the Father is how we became pilgrims. As commentator Peter Davids notes, “The cause of their salvation is not that they reached out to a distant God, but that God chose to relate to them and form them into a people, his people.” If we step back and consider the theologically loaded terms “elect” and “foreknowledge” under the umbrella of grace, we see that salvation could come by no other way than that which Davids summarizes.
A common view of foreknowledge is that God looked down through the ages and saw all those people who would embrace salvation if they were given the chance and then God ordained that they would indeed get the chance and be saved. But how is this grace? “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:5-6). If God just saw everyone who would choose him and then he chose them, how is that grace? How is that unmerited favor? For the Father’s election and foreknowledge to be gracious, he must be the initiator, not the responder. Otherwise, he is just giving people what they deserve: and that is not grace.
“Sanctification in the Spirit,” refers to our continued life as pilgrims. Wayne Grudem states, “Peter is saying that his readers’ whole existence as chosen sojourners of the Dispersion is being lived in the realm of the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The unseen, unheard, activity of God’s Holy Spirit surrounds them almost like a spiritual atmosphere in which they live and breathe, turning every circumstance, every sorrow, every hardship into a tool for his patient sanctifying work.” The Holy Spirit is the one working together all things for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose. The life of the exile is one of stress and pressure. He does not have the rights of a citizen. He is ostracized from the comfort fellowship and aid of community. He has no feet to stand on; no voice to raise; no vote to be cast. From the Father’s gracious decision to make us exiles, the Holy Spirit graciously uses their hardships of exile to make us more fit for heaven.
“For obedience to Jesus Christ,” is the purpose of our pilgrimage. There is a wonderful freedom of being a pilgrim of heaven; an exile on earth: God’s people are free from the laws of the planet. God’s people are set free from obeying the dictates of popular opinion. God’s people are set free from being slaves to fads. God’s people are wonderfully liberated from the constraints of political correctness. All of the unwritten laws that have so much more real power than any legislation of Congress are made powerless to God’s pilgrims. God’s people are released from the chains of society to obediently serve Jesus Christ.
“For sprinkling with His blood,” is the maintenance of our status as pilgrims. As Alan Stibbs comments, “…the cleansing virtue of Christ’s death is available, and will be needed, until the end of our earthly pilgrimage. Our calling is to obey; but when we fail the atoning blood can still be sprinkled.” Or, from someone with a bit more authority, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The blood of Christ avails to purify us when we fail. He ever lives at His Father’s right hand to intercede on our behalf.
Pilgrim, take heart! You have been set on your course by the gracious choice of the Father. The Holy Spirit broods over your pilgrimage to guide the journey to its appointed end. Jesus Christ, the One who is the goal of the journey, has charted the path and keeps you fit for it. Grace and peace are multiplied beyond measure.